Stanford Medicine recognized for physician-wellness work

Stanford Medicine’s commitment and work to improve physician fulfillment and reduce burnout have been acknowledged with the highest-level designation from the American Medical Association.

- By Julie Greicius

Changing the culture that has led to a national epidemic of physician burnout doesn’t happen overnight. But efforts at Stanford Medicine — which have grown to include departmental and organizational initiatives, ongoing assessment tools, and engagement and accountability at the highest levels of leadership — are gradually beginning to take hold and helping to advance the cause.

Now those efforts have been acknowledged by the American Medical Association’s new Joy in Medicine Recognition Program. Stanford Medicine, which comprises Stanford Health Care, Stanford Children’s Health and the School of Medicine, received the program’s highest recognition: gold.

“Stanford Medicine has long been a leader in taking on some of the world’s most challenging medical problems,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. “In facing the systemic issue of physician burnout, we’ve turned our lens of inquiry inward. We’re proud to receive this recognition from the AMA that marks our progress and encourages us to stay the course.”

The AMA may recognize health care organizations with a bronze, silver or gold based on their performance in six competency areas: commitment, assessment, leadership, efficiency of practice environment, teamwork and support.

Several of Stanford’s initiatives seek to improve the experience of frontline physicians. A dedicated well-being director in almost all of Stanford’s 18 clinical departments focuses on 

addressing the challenges and frustrations unique to each department, such as rearranging schedules within the department to minimize disruptions in workflows.

Stanford Medicine has long been a leader in taking on some of the world’s most challenging medical problems.

At both Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children’s Health, improving the efficiency of the practice environment is a top priority. At Stanford Health Care, the operational plan calls for enhancing the procedural and ambulatory work environments. The chief medical information officers at both hospitals, in collaboration with the WellMD team, have begun to address this with their own tool to measure “work after work,” the record-keeping most physicians must complete after hours and usually at home.

The data from this tool, other key metrics and physician wellness surveys are regularly reported to both hospitals’ boards, which can base decisions on these metrics with the goal of maintaining a cycle of continuous improvement. This information is also provided to all department chairs and is being used in several departments as an outcome metric for improvement teams studying workflow redesign, changes in team-based care and integration of documentation assistance, such as scribes.  These are just some of the wellness efforts in development across the organization. They also include leadership development programs, peer support resources and commensality groups to build meaningful connection and support for doctors.

“We have a long way to go in our work to improve physician wellness, but this recognition indicates that Stanford Medicine not only acknowledges this challenge but also has the highest level of commitment to change things for the better,” said Tait Shanafelt, MD, professor of medicine and chief wellness officer at Stanford Medicine. “The AMA designation recognizes that Stanford Medicine has established the appropriate systems and processes to begin to make meaningful progress at the organizational level — work that the school and hospital leadership are dedicated to continuing.”

For Stanford Medicine, this gold designation of excellence is a welcome affirmation following a series of efforts to redefine health care working environments to improve physician satisfaction and reduce burnout. The Stanford Medicine WellMD Center was created in late 2015. Two years later, Stanford Medicine was the first academic medical center in the United States to establish the role of chief wellness officer.

“As an academic medical center, we recognize that the healthiest environment for patients must also be a healthy one for their physicians,” said David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care. “We’re working to build the systems that will ensure the best practice environment for physicians, with the goal of increasing their well-being and ultimately ensuring the highest quality care for our patients.” 

Paul King, president and CEO of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health, agreed. “We’re at a turning point where health care organizations have the opportunity to reshape the field of medical practice. We’re listening, we’re learning and we’re taking meaningful steps to create a more livable, nourishing and sustainable environment for our workforce.”

Read more about Stanford Medicine’s physician wellness efforts in the latest Stanford Medicine magazine.

For resources on physician wellness at Stanford, visit

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit

2023 ISSUE 2

How the environment and health interact