Do No Harm

Two local medical organizations are teaming up to show a documentary film about physician suicide on Sept. 20.

The Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences’ Family Medicine Interest Group and the Yakima County Medical Society will present the film, “Do No Harm,” at 6:30 p.m. at Butler-Haney Hall on the university’s Terrace Heights campus. Paul Bubluski, in a news release for Pacific Northwest University, noted that 1 million Americans lose their doctors to suicide each year.

The free event will begin with hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m., followed by a 6:30 p.m. screening and a panel discussion, featuring experts on the topic of physician burnout and suicide. Members of the public, including physicians and medical students, are encouraged to attend.

YCMS Secretary-Treasurer Kay Funk said the screening of the film was primarily a student initiative.

“The practice of medicine has become increasingly stressful, maybe even traumatic,” Funk said. “There has been a lot of concern about the frequency of physician and medical student suicide.”

The 85-minute film, produced by two-time Emmy winner Robyn Symon, raises awareness about the rate of suicide among physicians, the highest among all professions and almost twice that of the general populace. A synopsis of the film notes that depression, drug abuse, sleep deprivation and burnout often start in medical school, when students face intense competition and crushing debt.

The film also links toxic conditions in the medical field — from pressure to increasingly see more patients, work faster or work longer hours — to an average of more than 250,000 preventable deaths from medical mistakes each year.

Dr. Pamela Wible, one of the four individuals followed in the film, is scheduled to participate in the panel discussion. Wible is a physician, author and activist who maintains a suicide prevention hotline for medical doctors and students.

“This is a huge ‘get,’ because she truly is the national voice speaking out,” Funk said.

A trailer of the film is at DoNoHarmFilm.com.

Reach Lex Talamo at ltalamo@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @LexTalamo.