Christopher Bundy, MD, FASAM, Fall 2021

Christopher Bundy, MD, MPH, FASAM

This past May I marked my seventh year with the Washington Physicians Health Program, five as its Executive Medical Director. While I am not the most senior member of our Federation, somewhere along the line I seem to have graduated from my FSPHP residency. One of the things I have noticed lately is the many new PHP medical directors among our ranks, many of whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know better this year. It has reminded me of just how challenging PHP work can be, especially in the beginning.

What we do is complex, high stakes, and can lead to intense interactions with participants, stakeholders, and even each other. New PHP directors may be hired for their enthusiasm, skill, innovation, and leadership, yet they find themselves in ecosystems that are risk averse and change resistant. These cultures may be biased toward the comfort of the familiar and reluctant to embrace the lifeblood of the new leader. The many masters to whom they are accountable need data and reports and presentations to reassure that all continues to be well and that improvements are continuously under way. No matter how skilled or experienced, new PHP directors often find themselves careening through foreign lands, steep learning curves ahead, competence and confidence in the rear view. 

Rather than be daunted, I encourage new PHP leaders to take this opportunity to listen and learn. At the start, it is less important that you know or do anything and more important to understand the conceptual, historical, and sometimes political underpinnings of your PHP’s extant practices. New ideas are necessary and important to advance our work, but they need to be tempered by a healthy respect for established methodology that may have been born of experience and hard lessons. Cultivating relationships, developing trust, and being very curious about the new world you inhabit can pave the way for receptivity to new ideas, always remembering that sometimes it is more important to be persuaded than to persuade.

PHP leaders give selflessly, often at considerable personal cost, in service to our nation’s healers. I want you to know that your sacrifice is acknowledged and appreciated. It has not been easy for any of us over the last 18 months and I admire your perseverance and fortitude. I also want to give special encouragement and support to those of you who are newer PHP directors. We are here to help you meet your challenges and experience the rewards that accumulate over time with each seed of recovered life you sow.

In Shakespeare’s play, King Henry IV, the title character exclaims, “Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down! Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” While PHP directors know little of the autocracy the metaphor suggests, we do know the strains of passion, duty, and diligence. The requirements of our position include suiting up each day to do battle against cunning, baffling, and powerful illnesses whose weapons include fear, shame, stigma, and denial. Without help, it can be too much for us.

A wise person once told me that sharing halves worry and doubles joy. The FSPHP is a fine example of that proverb. Through my FSPHP work, I have received far more in support, encouragement, and wisdom than I ever invested. FSPHP has made me a better PHP director, made my job easier, and given me friendships that will last a lifetime.

The gifts of the Federation are no more apparent than in the fall edition of Physician Health News. Here, we celebrate the bounty of our Annual Conference and the crucible of sharing it represents. In these pages, you will find ideas, innovations, and people to inspire and sustain you. And, should you be a new and perhaps uneasy crown bearer, I hope this issue reminds you that, as a member of this Federation, you need never be alone! 

Read more on this in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue.