Ruth Carr Program for Physician Vitality

Through research and partnering, the Ruth Carr Program for Physician Vitality examines the meaning and challenge of being a physician today. Its activities are especially aimed at advancing the success of female physicians. In today’s context of rapid change and consolidation in health care, there is an urgent need for physicians to maintain a sense of purpose at work, utilize their reflective capacity, and nurture supportive relationships with colleagues. Unfortunately, a large literature suggests that many physicians struggle with emotional exhaustion and declining satisfaction and that they commit suicide at rates much higher than expected. Physician distress can compromise care quality and inhibit the compassionate engagement that is core to patient-centered care. The Program explores strategies to prevent physician distress, isolation, and suicide; to help physicians to build shared purpose; and to renew their vitality at work.


About Ruth Carr

Ruth Margaret Carr, M.D. was born in Waco, Texas in 1951 and raised on military bases in Alaska, Idaho and Alabama. She attended Texas Christian University where she was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and graduated summa cum laude in 1973. She began her medical training at Harvard Medical School and then received her M.D. degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. She completed a general surgery residency at the University of Oklahoma and a pathology residency at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. In 1983, she completed a plastic surgery residency at UCLA.

Dr. Carr practiced plastic surgery in the Los Angeles area for 28 years, beginning her career at Kaiser Permanente in West Los Angeles and then building a successful private practice in Santa Monica. Dr. Carr was also a clinical professor in the departments of plastic and reconstructive surgery at both USC and UCLA. Dr. Carr was a longtime supporter and volunteer for Interplast (now ReSurge International), travelling to Asia, Africa, Central and South America to provide reconstructive surgery to poor and underserved communities and to train local doctors in reconstructive surgical techniques.

Dr. Carr’s remarkable talent and unflappable gracefulness inspired confidence and devotion from her colleagues and patients. She was a beloved wife and the loving mother of two sons. Dr. Carr passed away on May 7, 2009.


The Vitalists Articles


Upending Mastery: Learning to Feel Over the Long Run

Like many others, I was distressed by the story of two resident physicians who died by suicide in quick succession in New York City this summer. Pranay Sinha’s September 5th piece in the New York Times, "Why Do Doctors Commit…

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The Coalface of Burnout

You can’t step away from your EpicCare EMR platform for long these days before overhearing someone talking about alarmingly high rates of physician burnout. Burnout in physicians appears to undermine empathy and professionalism, drive professional drop-out and turnover, lead to…

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Physician Suicide: Known Risks and Open Questions

About 40,000 people in the U.S. kill themselves each year, and about 3 or 4 hundred of them are physicians. That’s about two medical school classes per year. Estimates of the relative risk of suicide in physicians compared to the…

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Alone or Together? Addressing Physician Isolation

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine [1] and its accompanying commentary [2] (both are linked to the right) raise several critical points about physician wellbeing. Both are brief and deserve to be read in full. Despite that physician…

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Is It a Tough Time to Be a Clinician?

The question in the title is rhetorical: it is a tough time to be a clinician. Today’s physicians, nurses, social workers, and other clinicians face an array of shifts and disruptions to their clinical routines and professional norms. Sometimes the…

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