Jeffrey M. Smith, MD to Deliver Keynote Address on Physician Wellness at 2019 Acumed Advanced Solutions for Trauma in the Upper Extremity

Phoenix, AZ, April 26th, 2019 - SurgeonMasters Founder Jeffrey M. Smith, MD, FACS, CPC will deliver the keynote address on physician well-being, “Surgeon Wellness” at the Acumed Upper Extremity Trauma Surgical Skills Course taking place April 26-27, 2019 at Science Care.

The two day event will cover the latest treatment options for fractures to upper extremity limbs. The conference features expert faculty, cadaveric hands-on labs, engaging lectures, and difficult case discussions. Course faculty will address treatments for upper extremity injuries covering distal radius fractures, scapula fractures, distal humerus fractures, Forearm Fractures, Proximal Humerus Fractures, and Clavicle Fractures.

Last year I spoke to Acumed leadership about surgeon wellness, and the entire group was engaged and wanted to know more. Now I’m the invited keynote speaker for an Acumed sponsored course to deliver the important and personal wellness message directly to surgeons. Kudos to Acumed for their commitment to improving the delivery of patient care both through their products and the support of surgeons.” - Jeff Smith, MD, Founder of SurgeonMasters

The Acumed Upper Extremity Surgical Skills Course is a two-day cadaveric program co-chaired by Dr. Lisa Lattanza and Dr. Mike McKee. We know that our course attendees are extremely busy and have many personal and professional obligations demanding their time. Therefore, we wanted to bring in a unique offering to our course, one that highlights the need for physicians to be cognizant of potential burnout and learn wellness techniques to help them thrive both personally and professionally. We have had the pleasure of attending several burnout prevention talks by Dr. Jeff Smith with SurgeonMasters and felt that this would be a wonderful and unique value add to provide to our course attendees.” - Rachel Edwards, Acumed

Event Details:

Acumed Advanced Solutions for Trauma in the Upper Extremity

April 26 - 27, 2019

Science Care

Phoenix, Arizona

SurgeonMasters is a physician coaching company. We help surgeons manage the many challenges of becoming and staying successful in a toxic healthcare environment that works against us.

SurgeonMasters was founded by Dr. Jeffrey Smith, a practicing orthopaedic trauma surgeon and physician coach.

Email Jeff or the SurgeonMasters Team today to learn how we help surgeons develop the critical skills necessary to lead a thriving, lifestyle-friendly surgical career that is physically, mentally, and emotionally sustainable.

Published in American Urological Association News - April 2019

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 24, issue 4, 2019; © American Urological Association 2019.


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Marital and Intimate Relationships

According to the 2019 Medscape Physician Lifestyle and Happiness Report, urology was one of the specialties with the happiest marriages! In contrast, the 2019 Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression and Suicide Report also listed urology as the specialty with the highest burnout. When it comes to wellness these days, I do my best to keep up on all of the literature. Just like we have learned to critique the science of every journal article, I read all of these articles with a skeptical eye and look for the learning points. What would I change in my life and practice? How can I improve?

Applying Coaching Principles

When I got the opportunity to share a viewpoint on marital health, I must admit I felt a significant amount of angst. I have now been married for over 18 years but being married to a busy orthopedic trauma surgeon is not easy. Even more importantly, one of the many values that I share with my wife is that our personal life should be substantially private. How can I be of value to my fellow surgeons with that kind of basis? Then I remembered that I got my introduction to this amazing organization through my 2016 AUA annual meeting presentation “Professional Coaching and Personal Development.” While some of the most inspirational coaches are those that lead by personal example, and many of the most successful coaches are those that have demonstrated their expertise in their specific field, the truly amazing thing is that the core principles of coaching are the most likely to succeed in any coachee.

Offering Perspective and Opportunity

Professional coaching is not counseling or therapy. The coaching I provide in this column is not mentoring or advising. The coaching that would benefit most of you in your personal development or marital and intimate relationships will typically encourage you to

  • Explore situations and challenges to guide self-inquiry and self-reflection

  • Maintain objectivity and encourage alternative interpretations

  • Identify potential barriers and possible solutions

  • Identify goals and potential actions

Taking Proactive Steps

As the reader coachee, you would benefit to avoid defensiveness, focus on learning, set realistic goals, and be accountable for your actions and next steps. Regarding your significant other, below are a few relationship coaching questions.

Strengthen trust and commitment: What do you do in the best interest of, and for the benefit of, your partner? What will you do “for better or for worse” to cherish your partner’s positive qualities for your lifelong journey together?

  • Manage conflict: How do both of you manage natural conflict, and how can you do that a little better?

  • Show appreciation and respect: How do you express your fondness and admiration in your relationship, and how can you do that a little better?

  • Take a positive approach: Despite the challenges in your relationship, how can you maintain or redirect problem solving and repair harm done with a positive attitude?

  • Find quality time and joyful small moments: Despite the time demands of your career, how can you improve the quality of time together, savor the small moments of joy and make each other’s dreams come true?

These are just a few proactive steps we can take that can make a huge difference in our relationships. Being a practicing surgeon can be taxing on a relationship. However, a little effort can go a long way in strengthening your relationship for the long haul. Stay well.

SurgeonMasters Founder Jeff Smith, MD, promoting surgeon wellness at the upcoming 2019 AAOS Annual Meeting

Las Vegas, NV, March 7, 2019 - The 2019 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) hosts its Annual Meeting from March 12 - 16, 2019, at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

More than 20,000 orthopaedic surgeons and healthcare professionals will converge on Las Vegas for five days of education and networking. This year more than ever the meeting features wellness and burnout prevention topics aimed at improving the practices and lives of surgeons.

Every year there is more attention being paid to issues affecting sustainability of practice. I’m excited that the organizations we belong to and support us are starting to pay greater attention to these issues. The days are gone where we go to meetings simply to become better technical surgeons - we’re beginning to truly address surgeons as a whole” - SurgeonMasters founder Jeff Smith, MD

If you’re attending the 2019 AAOS Annual Meeting be sure not to miss opportunities for your wellness!

Event Details:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting

March 12-16, 2019

Sands Expo Center

Las Vegas, Nevada

Highlighted Sessions:

Surgeon Well Being for the Benefit of the Patient: How Can We Become Better for Everyone Else - Tuesday, March 12⋅10:30am – 12:30pm

Speed Mentoring Program for Residents

Thursday, March 14th, 8:00 – 9:30 AM Room 3301; Jeff Smith, MD on the large panel to help our trainees learn sustainable strategies in practice.

How Personal Resilience and Positive Attitude Combat Burnout - Thursday, March 14th, 4pm - 5pm; Jeff Smith, MD shows a very simple concept for practicing personal resilience and positive attitude!


SurgeonMasters is a coaching and wellness medical education company that delivers strategies and techniques overlooked or underemphasized in traditional medical training that improve practice performance, well-being and ultimately, patient outcomes.

Contact to learn more about collaborating with SurgeonMasters.

Subscribe to receive updates on educational materials including regular blog articles, podcasts, and webinars.

Brent Jackson, MD, FACS, SurgeonMasters Advisory Board Member, Named Chief Medical Officer at Mercy General Hospital, Sacramento, California

Sacramento, CA., February 17, 2019 - Brent Jackson, MD, FACS, is named Chief Medical Officer at Mercy General Hospital, Sacramento, California. Dr. Jackson is an experienced general surgeon and physician executive. While concurrently working towards his MBA, Brent has gained experienced with inpatient/outpatient Utilization Management, hospital-based physician leadership, and quality/process improvement.

Brent Jackson, MD

Brent Jackson, MD

Brent is the former medical director at River City Medical Group in Sacramento, and was a clinically active general surgeon for more than 15 years.

Dr. Jackson is also a member of the SurgeonMasters Advisory Board.

“I have known Dr. Jackson for over a decade. He is a leader dedicated to providing the highest quality care. He understands the critical human element of medical care for patients and all healthcare professionals. He understands the many challenges that we face in the healthcare industry and is driven to find improvements in the delivery of care, whether immediate or long-term. It has been an honor to have him serving on our Advisory Board to develop services for burnout prevention and wellness, also immediate and long-term. ” Jeff Smith, MD, Founder of SurgeonMasters

SurgeonMasters is a wellness and burnout prevention medical education company that delivers strategies and techniques overlooked or underemphasized in traditional medical training that improve practice performance, well-being and ultimately, patient outcomes.

Contact to learn more about collaborating with SurgeonMasters.

Subscribe to receive our updates and a variety of educational materials including regular blog articles, podcasts, and webinars.

New Year’s Resolutions, Wellness, and Surgery: How to Have a Life Outside of the OR

January 2019 - SurgeonMasters founder Jeffrey M Smith, MD, FACS, CPC, writes a blog for the Academy for Academic Surgery twitter chat on taking place January 29, 2019 at 8 pm EST, 5 pm PST. You can read the full blog online here.

The conversation will address these questions:

  1. What are your New Year’s resolutions? If you chose not to make any resolutions, why not?

  2. What are your barriers to achieving your New Year’s resolutions? What are your strategies to overcome them?

  3. How do you predict your ability to achieve your resolutions will impact your ability to provide optimal patient care?

  4. How do you use social support of your friends, family, and colleagues to maintain your New Year’s resolutions?

  5. How can we use social media to support us in achieving our personal goals?

Join the conversation on Twitter January 29th at 8 pm EST, 5 pm PST.

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SurgeonMasters Inaugural Conference - Harnessing the Power of Surgeon Coaching

San Diego, CA., January. 20th, 2019 - SurgeonMasters hosted its inaugural coach training Harnessing the Power of Surgeon Coaching, January 20, 2019, at the Kona Kai Resort and Spa.

The training was a full day hands-on experience addressing perspectives in surgeon coaching, coaching theories, and followed with practical delivery methods in coaching. Finally, attendees applied what they learned by engaging in one-on-one coaching and group coaching sessions.

How do surgeons learn, grow, and improve after training? Continuing medical education places much of the emphasis on remaining up-todate in surgical skills. Technology is expanding to robotic techniques, minimallyinvasive techniques, and ever-better tools or devices. Even our medical education world is expanding with more and more videos that we can view without traveling to a course or observing a mentor in the operating room. New technology is aimed at making our jobs easier and better for patients.

With so much “progress,” why is our industry facing a growing crisis of surgeons burning out, leaving medicine, and some resorting to the unthinkable? What can we do about it?

What if the secret is coaching? Click here to review the agenda.

May 20 • Saturday • 9 AM to 5 PM 123 Anywhere St..png

Event Details:

Harnessing the Power of Surgeon Coaching - A One Day Training Seminar

7:30 am - 5:30 pm

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

Kona Kai Resort and Spa

San Diego, California

SurgeonMasters is a coaching and wellness medical education company that delivers strategies and techniques overlooked or underemphasized in traditional medical training that improve practice performance, well-being and ultimately, patient outcomes.

Contact to learn more about coaching services or trainings.

Subscribe to receive updates on offer a variety of educational materials including regular blog articles, podcasts, and webinars.

Published in American Urological Association News - January 2019

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 24, issue 1, 2019; © American Urological Association 2019.


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Grumpy Old Surgeons

I know my fair share of grumpy surgeons, and at times, I have been one of them. I am not making excuses but the pressure of working in the health care industry sometimes takes me away from my purpose and turns me into a grumpy old surgeon. The great news is that I am much less grumpy now with my strategies to create wellness in all areas of my life. I am well on the path to not being a “grumpy old” surgeon.

When my kids were really young, I was given the book Mr. Grumpy. We had several of Roger Hargreaves’ Mr. Men and Little Miss series books for young children to read and learn about emotions. The Mr. Grumpy book was designated for me. While I continue to work just as hard as I did in those days, I am not nearly as overworked, overstressed or burned out. Now I am aware that burnout and a lack of wellness strategies can create grumpy.

What can grumpy old surgeons do to address the symptoms of grumpy? What can young and middle-aged surgeons do to avoid becoming grumpy old surgeons?

Practice Gratitude

I have always met these calls for gratitude with a profound amount of resistance (although I can’t pin down exactly why). Maybe my neural pathways for grumpy are still too accessible. I cannot disregard that I have made many phenomenal positive transitions during the last few years. Whether becoming a better eater, a better writer, more effective or more optimistic, each of these improvements has come as a result of practice. I encourage you to have faith in the proven strategy of a gratitude practice. Research has shown that daily gratitude habits have many benefits including reducing depression, increasing mental strength in those who experience post-traumatic stress and improving our sense of personal accomplishment.

Consider starting or adding to your daily gratitude practice with a few written words of gratitude or a mindful exercise of what you are thankful for that day.

Recover Purpose

While in training, my primary purpose was to become a doctor and then a surgeon but after that, I think I went on autopilot and failed to determine my purpose moving forward. It can be helpful to think about why we became surgeons in the first place. However, new purposes can be discovered (even for retired or grumpy old surgeons). While there can be significant benefits, including happiness, when we have a focus on purpose, there are benefits to having any purpose. For example, many burned out surgeons could seek to simply be less grumpy or less burned out.

Consider reflecting on what you enjoy in your life and practice, and create a goal to incrementally add more of that. Alternatively, set a realistic goal for yourself, and then work hard to achieve that goal.

Experience Wellness

We are more effective assisting patients through illness, injury and recovery when we experience wellness for ourselves. Health care has too many distractions from provider wellness. We are trained to work excruciatingly long hours, often at the expense of our own health. Surgical training makes us particularly skilled at suffering at the expense of others. From my experience, you won’t be able to adjust all of your habits of diet, sleep, exercise and others all at once. What if you just took on one adjustment at a time?

Consider making one healthier adjustment to your life each month. Whether you are currently burned out, surviving or thriving, each of these strategies can help you lessen your grumpy and increase your ability to experience more wellness. Stay Well.

Jeffrey M. Smith, MD, FACS, CPC Presents UCSD/Rady Children's Hospital – San Diego (RCHSD) Surgical Grand Rounds

San Diego, CA., October 25, 2018 - Jeffrey M. Smith, MD, FACS, CPC will present “Burnout, Resilience and Wellness: My Argument for the Stronger Canary,” taking place at the UCSD/Rady Children's Hospital – San Diego (RCHSD) Surgical Grand Rounds on Friday, October 26, 2018 from 7:00 - 8:00 am.  

Event Details:

80-90% of burnout contributors come from external stresses of the organization, healthcare system, and our culture. Addressing the fourth aim (provider experience and satisfaction) of the Quadruple Aim for organizations would have more significant impact on burnout prevention and wellness.  Changing these takes more time, due to bureaucracy, differing opinions of what actions will have the greatest impact, budgets, and more. What if we physicians at least took on that which we have the most potential to control - ourselves? What if we integrated methods and tools that promoted wellness, positive sustainable resilience, and decrease the signs and symptoms of burnout. I am not waiting around for “them.”

Presentation Objectives:

1) Take the discussion of burnout beyond definitions and causes, and start creating effective strategies to manage it on both an individual and organizational level.

2) Learn the critical 8 PRACTICEs that create sustainable surgeon success and understand why knowledge of these can empower you to create a sustainable and fulfilling surgical practice.

3) Learn effective tools and strategies that balance out the negative stressors, frustrations, and challenges of becoming a skilled surgeon.

4) Create plans that condition you to adopt burnout prevention, resilience training, and wellness strategies.

UCSD/Rady Children's Hospital – San Diego (RCHSD) Surgical Grand Rounds on Friday, October 26, 2018 from 7:00 - 8:00 am.  The Surgical Grand Rounds are held at RCHSD, Education & Office Building 7960 Birmingham Dr. San Diego, CA 92123.


Jeffrey M. Smith, MD, FACS, CPC is a frequent speaker around the country on wellness and burnout topics in healthcare.  To bring Dr. Smith to your hospital or institution, contact Dr. Smith is a practicing orthopaedic trauma surgeon in San Diego, California, and a physician coach, frequent speaker, educator, podcaster and blogger.

SurgeonMasters Founder Jeff Smith, MD, Speaks at OTA Annual Meeting - Maintaining Mid-Career Quality of Life

Kissimmee, FL, Oct. 19th, 2018 - SurgeonMasters Founder, Jeff Smith, MD, will present Strategies for Finding Balance in Your Life and Career, during the Maintaining Mid-Career Quality of Life breakout session at the 2018 Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) Annual Meeting, taking place October 17-20, 2018, at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center.

I’m excited to present on this truly important topic at the OTA meeting. I am an ortho trauma surgeon, and these are some of my closest colleagues. The burnout rate among orthopaedic surgeons is too high -  over 40%! It has also been shown that about two-thirds of trauma surgeons exhibit at least one symptom of secondary traumatic stress, while 22% meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD. It is critical that we share strategies that help us address quality of life.” - Jeff Smith, MD, SurgeonMasters Founder

Event Details:

Title: Maintaining Mid-Career Quality of Life

Location: Gaylord Palms, Sun Ballroom D

Moderator: Eric Meinberg, MD

Faculty: Lisa Cannada, MD, Gregory Della Rocca, MD, PhD, Samir Mehta, MD, Jeffrey M. Smith, MD

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify the elements of career stress and burnout

  2. Identify strategies to ameliorate career stressors

  3. Identify strategies to maintain a better sense of wellbeing

Session Description:

This symbol symposium will help mid-career surgeons to identify and manage career and life stresses to maintain a productive career and positive work-life balance.

The mission of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) is to promote excellence in care for the injured patient, through provision of scientific forums and support of musculoskeletal research and education of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the public. The OTA Annual Meeting is for the benefit of orthopaedic trauma surgeons and related allied health care professionals. The Annual Meeting is being held October 17 - 20, 2018 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center.

Jeffrey M. Smith, MD, FACS, CPC is an orthopaedic trauma surgeon, educator and frequent speaker on physician wellness, burnout prevention and performance improvement inside and outside the OR. Contact to learn more about collaborating with SurgeonMasters or Jeffrey Smith, MD. Subscribe to receive updates on offer a variety of educational materials including regular blog articles, podcasts, and burnout prevention programs.

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SurgeonMasters Sponsors Wellness Events at Orthopaedic Trauma Association Annual Meeting 2018

Kissimmee, FL., Oct. 17th, 2018 - SurgeonMasters is sponsoring wellness and team building events over four days at the 2018 Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) Annual Meeting taking place October 17-20, 2018, at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center.

SurgeonMasters is hosting two yoga classes, a meditation session, the 4th Annual Tour de Bone (Cycling), and a Tai Chi class to offer a chance to recharge and connect with colleagues outside of the meeting room.

Event Details:

Yoga - Wednesday, October 17th, 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Meditation - Thursday, October 18th, 6:00 am - 6:45 am

4th Annual Tour de Bone (Cycling) - Thursday, October 18th, 7:00 am - 10:00 am

Yoga - Friday, October 19th, 6:00 am - 7:00 am

Tai Chi - Saturday, October 20th, 6:00 am - 7:00 am

The Special Events that were hosting at the OTA Annual Meeting have many benefits for Wellness and Burnout Prevention. I can personally attest to Yoga. Many of our colleagues vow by the others. No matter novice, intermediate or advanced... No matter burned out, surviving or thriving... No matter if you do it just here in Orlando or find a way to do it regularly back home...  We invite you to join us and share in activities that have been proven to have many physical, mental and emotional benefits to our life and practice.” Jeff Smith, MD, Founder of SurgeonMasters

Attendees can register onsite with the OTA.

Contact to learn more about collaborating with SurgeonMasters.

Subscribe to receive updates on offer a variety of educational materials including regular blog articles, podcasts, and webinars.

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Published in American Urological Association News - October 2018

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 23, issue 10, 2018; © American Urological Association 2018.


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How to Use Your Vision

This statement can elicit all sorts of responses. The important thing is how you can use your vision to your advantage to create your best performance.

Visualization (Planning) and Vision (Aspirational Goals)

There is an important distinction between visualization and vision. Visualization is a version of planning, wherein you can walk through the steps of a skill, procedure or surgery to rehearse the sequence a few times before performing it live.

Vision, on the other hand, is more of an aspirational goal. Organizations often define their vision in a Vision Statement. Individuals can also have a vision for their future. This aspirational description of what one would like to achieve in the intermediate and long term serves as a guide to making choices in the short term which will serve that goal.

Vision: the Power of Seeing Where You are Going

In order to see, we must first look. When we are seeking improvement, whether in our surgical skills, our hobbies, our business or something else, we can look at what has previously worked to improve performance and put that on repeat. Or we can look to others to see what we can adopt. What works best depends greatly upon your vision.

Vision to Reach the Peak

I recently attended a conference in Colorado and brought along my 14-year-old son. One day, his vision included climbing to the top of a summit near our hotel. In order to reach the top, I needed to tap into the hiking skills I acquired as an Eagle Scout, as well as the breathing techniques I practice in yoga. While physically these skills would be helpful in succeeding the climb, it was the mental strength and perspective that I needed to visualize.

What do you have that can help you reach your summit or peak? What do you need to borrow or learn to help you get there?

Vision When Things Get Choppy

On this same trip my son also envisioned going white water rafting. I knew I could control the controllables and so I made sure we had proper safety equipment, understood the different rapids categories and paid attention to our guide. I knew I could not control the rapids, whether they would be powerful, powerless or somewhere in between.

Our journey started out choppy with class 3 and 4 rapids. In the middle of the excursion we floated smoothly but then returned to some rough waters. Rafting is like other life endeavors — it is unclear whether the waters will be calm or take an unexpected turn into choppy rapids. Prepare for the possibilities and then go with the flow.

What if your career were a rafting trip? Are you in a phase of rough waters or a calm float? When between rapids, are you looking around and taking in all of the beautiful sights?

Vision—Which Way Do I Look?

“Sometimes in order to keep moving forward, not only must you take one step at a time, but you must be willing to look back occasionally and evaluate your past, no matter how painful it is. Looking back lets you know whether or not you are headed in the right direction.” — G.K. Adams

How does it benefit you when you look back? How can your vision assist you in making your actions consistent with your intermediate and long-term goals? What is your vision?

Stay Well.

Less-obvious Habits Can Significantly Impact Physician Lifestyle and Happiness- July 2018 AAOS Now Article

Rosemont, Il., July 2018- SurgeonMasters founder, Jeffrey M Smith, MD, FACS, CPC, pens the final of a two part article for AAOS Now, the the leading orthopaedic news magazine published by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, on physician wellness and the factors contributing to the healthcare industry crisis.

Read Full Article Online

Jeffrey M Smith, MD is the founder of SurgeonMasters, a physician wellness and burnout prevention medical education company. Contact to learn more about collaborating with SurgeonMasters.

Subscribe to receive updates on offer a variety of educational materials including regular blog articles, podcasts, and webinars.

Published in American Urological Association News - July 2018

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 23, issue 7, 2018; © American Urological Association 2018.


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Questions vs Answers

From our first day of preschool to our last day of residency, our performance is largely determined by our capacity to deliver the right answer in the right moment. The better a surgeon’s ability to deliver the right answer, the better their ability to help patients and build a thriving practice... Or so the story goes.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if the medical community’s emphasis on having the “right answer” is the wrong approach to training the next generation of surgeons.

The Risk of Being Answer-Obsessed

When the objective is having the right answer, learning becomes an act of memorization as opposed to higher learning. When education becomes a glorified fact-checking process, thoughtful questions aren’t asked, new connections aren’t made and development occurs at a snail’s pace.

What if we shifted the emphasis away from having the answer? This isn’t to say that having the wrong answer to established medical knowledge or best practices would be acceptable, but what if we reinforced asking thoughtful questions as a valued part of the education process? You know, the kind of questions that

  • stimulate higher thought and deeper thinking

  • ultimately lead to medical breakthroughs and innovations

  • challenge dogma or even our answers

What if we taught medical and surgical students to make a strong habit of asking questions, the same way we encourage them to make a habit of having the right answers?

Questions for Established Surgeons

This applies not only to medical students and young surgeons, but to established surgeons as well. Established surgeons (including yours truly) can benefit mightily from asking more questions. Asking questions is how we learn to reengage with our professional passion.

When we ask ourselves “why did we get into this career in the first place?” we can reconnect with the reasons we started our adventure. Asking “what makes me happy?” and “for what am I grateful?” is how we create a better attitude for ourselves and deal with many of the unique frustrations of working in the surgical field.

Questions such as “what are other perspectives to look at this?“ and “how would it feel to be in their shoes?” are key to improving our capacity for communication and mutual understanding with our patients, with our families and with our colleagues. When we create time to reflect on a busy day at the practice and ask ourselves “what can I get better at?” and “what new things am I learning?,” we inspire and influence ourselves to truly improve.

If we want to build reciprocity in our roles and relationships, and if we want to ensure our lives are fueled by a cooperative exchange of give and take, we must engage with questions like “what is my give and my take in this role?” and “what is fair to everyone involved?”. However, most importantly, if our goal as surgeons and members of an essential health care field is to find simple solutions to complex problems, then we must be encouraged to ask questions.

Stay Well.

Physician Happiness Cannot Be Ignored - June 2018 AAOS Now Article

Rosemont, Il., June 2018- SurgeonMasters founder, Jeffrey M Smith, MD, FACS, CPC, pens the first of a two part article for AAOS Now, the the leading orthopaedic news magazine published by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, on physician wellness and the factors contributing to the healthcare industry crisis.

Read Full Article Online

Jeffrey M Smith, MD is the founder of SurgeonMasters, a physician wellness and burnout prevention medical education company. Contact to learn more about collaborating with SurgeonMasters.

Subscribe to receive updates on offer a variety of educational materials including regular blog articles, podcasts, and webinars.

Published in American Urological Association News - April 2018

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 23, issue 4, 2018; © American Urological Association 2018.


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Diversity is an interesting term. We talk about it all the time in the media but rarely do we grasp the true meaning of the word.

Diversity isn’t the exclusive property of the progressively minded, nor is it something that can only be applied to matters of gender identity or racial makeup. Diversity is about more than that.

Diversity, to quote Malcolm Forbes, “is the art of thinking independently together.” I’m worried that far too few surgeons are approaching diversity in this manner.

My concern isn’t the lack of gender or racial diversity in America’s surgeons (those may be pertinent issues as well but that’s another conversation) but rather, the lack of diversity in what it takes to be a great surgeon.

I fear the surgical culture is too restrictive. It has been my experience that our culture stifles differences of opinion and shuts down thought patterns that deviate from the norm. I know a lot of surgeons who have had similar experiences throughout their time in practice. Just because we’re all surgeons doesn’t mean we have to think alike, talk alike or live alike.

Admittedly, we should all act on core principles, that is to say intelligently and professionally, in the operating room but outside of work, who cares? We don’t need to vote for the same political candidate. We don’t need to live in the same kind of neighborhood or drive the same kind of car. And we certainly don’t all need to like golf or tennis.

Surgeons are different, and those differences are OK! In fact, they’re more than OK. They’re wonderful, and they need to be embraced by the surgical community and its leaders.

When we embrace intellectual and philosophical diversity, we develop a better attitude towards our profession and our peers. Instead of getting frustrated by an opinion that is radically different from ours, we learn to appreciate that difference and approach it with a positive attitude. That improved attitude leads to improved communication in the workplace, which naturally leads to better complex problem solving, and healthier professional roles and relationships, all of which are empowered by a cooperative exchange of intellectual give and take.

As forward thinking surgeons, we need to ask ourselves how we can engage with our peers (and the opinions of our peers) without attacking. Everyone has a valid opinion and should be treated as such. How can we cultivate positive change without lambasting those who view the world, be it the surgical world or the world at large, through a different lens?

Of course, I don’t have the answers to these tough questions, at least not yet, but I’m willing to put in the hard work required to uncover them. And I hope to some degree I’ve inspired and influenced you to do the same. 

Published in American Urological Association News - October 2017

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 22, issue 10, 2017; © American Urological Association 2017.



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The Mental Strength of Surgeons

Surgeons are a lot like high performance athletes. Not in the physical sense (although there are certainly some very athletic surgeons out there!), but in the mental sense. Successful surgeons are mentally tough. They have hardiness and fortitude, and can push through life’s disruptions.

When faced with the everyday challenges of surgical life, elite surgeons go beyond the barriers of what’s comfortable using the same mental toughness the world’s most elite athletes tap into during training and competition. There is a resilience and willingness to go beyond the point of exhaustion to secure the “win.”

For surgeons who’ve been struggling or surgeons simply looking to stay at the top of their game, understanding what it takes to be mentally tough is critical. The best definition of mental toughness that I have found comes courtesy of authors Peter Clough and Doug Strycharczyk in their book, Developing Mental Toughness. 1 They define mental toughness as “The quality which determines in large part how people deal effectively with challenge, stressors, and pressure...irrespective of prevailing circumstances.”1

Strycharczyk and Clough continue their defi nition by breaking the broader concept of mental toughness into the 4 keys of 1) challenge—viewing challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles; 2) control—believing fully in the power of self-determination; 3) commitment—an unwavering ability to see assignments through to completion; and 4) confi dence—complete confidence of self and one’s ability to succeed.

Elite surgeons have each of these 4 keys. Applied outside the operating room, they maintain thriving careers. Applied to their personal life, they achieve lifestyle-friendly and sustainable careers.

Challenge. Mentally tough surgeons don’t think they can succeed inside and outside the operating room— they know they can. Their attitude is one of maximum positivity, built to withstand the gauntlet of surgical life.

Control. Elite surgeons believe fully in their ability to control their destiny. That belief cultivates an insatiable passion for performance improvement, which naturally leads to sustained professional success.

Commitment. The best surgeons are the most committed—those unwilling to retire from the day until the job is done. Through relentless practice, these surgeons become masters of complex problem solving and time management. They learn to reduce a problem to its simplest form before attempting to solve it, allowing them to get more done with less time and effort. This helps them be more committed.

Confidence. Mentally tough surgeons inspire and influence themselves using internal rather than external rewards. Because they have an internal well of 24/7 motivation, their confidence in themselves, their abilities and their mission can’t be shaken by setback.

Ultimately, the only thing that binds elite surgeons and elite athletes more than any other is an uncanny ability to find the positive in everything.

It is not that elite surgeons and athletes never have “down” moments, as they absolutely do. However, when those down moments occur, they are confined to just that moment. When the moment passes, elite surgeons know how to bounce back. They put a positive spin on things, find a silver lining to extract, and resume their quest for professional and personal excellence.

For those surgeons reading this article who think they lack one (or more) of the 4 keys to mental toughness, don’t worry, as they are skills that can be learned over time with an investment of time, energy and (of course) practice!


1. Clough P and Strycharczyk D: Developing Mental Toughness: Improving Performance, Wellbeing and Positive Behaviour in Others. London: Kogan Page Publishers, 2012.

Published in American Urological Association News - July 2017

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 22, issue 7, 2017; © American Urological Association 2017.


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Why Surgeons should Build their Emotional IQ


Surgeons are smart. But what kind of “smart” are we? Too often, we focus on building academic intelligence. We zero-in on test-scores, professional distinctions, prestigious degrees, and, in the process, we forget about another kind of intelligence, "emotional intelligence," an intelligence that is critical to sustainable success. Don’t worry, this isn’t another feel-good, “get-in-touch-with-your-emotions” article. This is an article dedicated to the sharing of the real-life value of developed emotional intelligence.   

Passion for Performance Improvement

Why did you become a surgeon? What was the emotion behind that decision? Your emotional motivation is the key to overcoming frustration, exhaustion, stress, or negative emotions that keep us from reaching the heights of our professional potential. Identifying and understanding that emotional motivation is leverage to perform and improve—and positive emotions are the key to sustainable growth.

Role and Relationships

Yes, you’re a surgeon, but are you a parent? Spouse? Friend? Teacher? The roles and relationships we have in our lives come with their own unique emotional costs and benefits—anxiety, stress, overwhelm, joy, excitement, etc.

Learning how to identify when the costs become too great is essential. Any role or relationship, left unchecked, can become a leach in your life, taking and taking until you’ve got nothing left to give, and your practice suffers.


Obviously, attitude is a byproduct of emotion. Attitude dictates our state-of-mind when we walk into (or out of) the operating room. Emotional intelligence allows surgeons to more easily shift from sadness and gravity to happiness and gratitude and helps us convey hope as well as a caring and confident attitude that resonates with patients.


Ever heard the saying, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?” Tone, inflection, posture, eye-contact, and energy, are just a few of the many components that determine how effectively you communicate. And, like it or not, your emotional state weighs heavily on how you communicate. As a surgeon, having a high emotional IQ means you can recognize what you and others are feeling and keep emotions in-check, preventing them from contaminating your communication with peers, patients, family, and anyone else you encounter.


Emotional intelligence is time-sensitive, balancing the emotional needs of important relationships with your personal needs. You know those mornings where you can’t get going? Or those days when you look up from your desk only to realize it’s 8 pm and you haven’t eaten, exercised, or checked-in with spouse all day?  Emotionally intelligent surgeons aim for focus and quality over quantity.  

Inspire and Influence

So much of your success is tied to your ability to inspire and influence others. How can you inspire others if you are no longer inspired? How can you successfully influence if you can’t emotionally connect to the worries, fears, and emotional drivers of others?

Complex Problem Solving

Successful surgeons have trained to solve complex problems but that ability can be compromised by the taxing emotions that commonly accompany the problem-solving process. Emotions like frustration, anger, embarrassment, disappointment, self-doubt and hopelessness. Emotional intelligence comes from small successes and knowing that failure breeds resilience, determination and useful knowledge.


It’s hard to be a great surgeon, stay healthy and lead a sustainable career if you’re running low on energy. Nothing saps energy as quickly as negative emotions. Emotional recharge and recovery restores calm, hope, joy and confidence.

When positive emotions prevail in your life, growing and maintaining a successful surgical practice is much simpler.

Published in American Urological Association News - April 2017

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 22, issue 4, 2017; © American Urological Association 2017.


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Questioning Assumptions


The longer you have been practicing, the harder it is to question your status quo.

It is hard to rock the boat. It is especially hard to rock your own boat.

You have invested so much time into being who you are...a surgeon and much more. You’ve spent time building up your conviction in what you do, how you do it, and, the more core issue, why you do it.

But we are able to stay more current and well when we are willing to question assumptions. When we think we have all of the answers we stop asking questions. Instead we say or think things like:

  • They will never agree to that.

  • I will be mocked if I suggest this.

  • That failed last time I tried.

These are assumptions - a belief that if something happened in the past, it will happen again.  Assumptions are more likely to lead to failure. When you apply a different approach and create persistent action, you are more likely to succeed.

Take a look back into the past. Did your past successes mostly come from persistence and challenging assumptions? I’m betting they did. Ask yourself, “Just because it happened before, why does it have to happen again?”

Let’s make it even simpler.

I propose that we should be regularly asking ourselves three simple questions:

  1. Why am I doing this?

  2. What if I change how I do this?

  3. What if I change what I do?

Please keep in mind that bringing up questions does rock the boat. I don’t love encouraging pain on others, so please be prepared to ask for help from others that care about you.

When in doubt, start challenging the assumptions on how you do things first. After you practice this a little more, you can start challenging what you do.

Lastly, cautiously challenge your why.  From personal experience and with many hours of working with other surgeons, I’ve noticed that energy expended tends to be reversely proportional. That includes physical, mental and emotional energy. If you are not challenging your “core WHY” or your purpose, it is not as stressful.

This is not restricted to challenging your own assumptions. You can ask these same questions of others (your hospital administrator, your partners or colleagues etc.). When you do challenge others, try to be just as respectful. Why? What if? If it isn’t at their core, they will be more willing to explore challenging the assumption as well.

Stay Well.

Published in American Urological Association News - January 2017

reprinted with permission in AAOS Now - January 2017

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 22, issue 1, 2017; © American Urological Association 2017.


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Less Balance! More Focus!


The other day I was reminded of a very important idea while I was at my yoga class:

The value is in focus, not balance.

Much of what is required in yoga and a surgical career takes balance. And on many days, I find myself pushing for more and more of that balance. Sometimes I waiver, sometimes I fall, but I am always striving for that balance.

The benefits of balance are real, and I see them in so many ways which, is why I constantly strive for it, whether I’m at home, at the office, or in the yoga studio.

Unfortunately, any time I struggle with balance, my mind has a tendency to see that struggle as failure. When I am unable to hold a pose, or my career starts to take up too much of my time, I see that absence of balance as a personal shortcoming.

But that’s not how it should be because battles with balance are really opportunities for focus which leads to rhythm which leads to good things.

One of the key practices of highly successful surgeons is rhythm.

In my experience, getting into YOUR rhythm depends upon where you feel you’re functioning.

·      Burned Out? – Learn to triage your time, especially time for yourself

·      Surviving? – Learn to adjust your priorities consistent with your values

·      Succeeding? – Learn to increase efficiency and return on investment

·      Thriving? – Enjoy the journey!

When surgeons are in rhythm, they can go from one role to the next and one patient to the other, with the focus and mindfulness that leads to quality treatment and care.

And how do we define quality?

When our patients say we seem to “really care” or that we “listen well,” those moments are a reflection of quality derived from focus.

When our kids or spouse feels we are less distracted by work or enjoying our time with them, then we are injecting quality drawn directly from the purposeful focus of our attention into these relationships.

Are you battling for balance?

How can you use that battle as an opportunity to channel focus?

Remember--focus will bring you to rhythm, and rhythm will bring you to some fantastic spaces.

Stay Well.