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The Mindful Doc: Dael Waxman, MD

Updated: Feb 6

Dael Waxman, M.D. is a Professor of Family Medicine at Atrium Health in Charlotte, NC. Previously Interim Chair and Vice-Chair of the Department of Family Medicine, he continues on the faculty there as well as serves as the Medical Director of Physician Well-being for Medical Education for Atrium Health and Medical Director of Patient-Centered Programming at Atrium CMC-Mercy. In addition to his medical background, he has received training in and has been integrating family therapy, clinical hypnosis, mind/body medicine, mindfulness, and leadership coaching into teaching, practice, and faculty development for over 25 years. He has taught regionally, nationally, and internationally on: physician burnout and well-being, mindfulness in medicine, developing a patient and family-centered culture, family influences on health, physician-patient communication, and collaboration between mental health and primary care.

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Dr. Waxman is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, did his residency in Family Medicine as well as served as Chief Resident at the University of Arizona and completed a Family Systems Medicine Fellowship at the University of Rochester. On a national and international level, he served on the Board of Directors for Planetree International, an organization committed to exceptional person-centered healthcare. He is also a graduate of the HealthCare Coaching Institute and has a coaching and consulting practice with a focus on leadership, life, and professional well-being coaching. Dr. Waxman was named a Charlotte Top Doctor for Family Medicine in 2012 and 2013 and was the inaugural recipient of the Physician Provider of the Tree award at Atrium Health in 2018.

Dr. Waxman’s Prescription for Success:

Number 1: Take care of yourself. Prioritize your health and well-being. We can only give so much of ourselves before we are all used up. You have to restore and replenish or you’re going to burn out.

Number 2: Honor the unique gifts that you bring to the profession, even if it seems unpopular, or it seems a little bit weird.

Number 3: Don’t just do something stand there. Don’t always feel like you have to do something, stand there and be with. The therapeutic relationship is just what it says it is. It’s therapeutic. Just be with and care for.

Connect with Dr. Waxman:

Notable Quotes from Dr. Waxman’s Interview:

So we went out and visited some cattle farmers and we went out to some oil rigs to learn something about how the economy flows in this community. And [Dr. Rick Kellerman]] said you have to go to the high school basketball games, so that you understand how a primary care physician is in this community, how they operate.
Because when you’re burnt out your, your thinking goes, “this isn’t for me”. And it’s hard to see that this isn’t what it’s going to look like when you’re done.
In primary care, we end up being the de facto mental health providers, and I didn’t feel well-equipped. I knew how to prescribe medication, but that isn’t necessarily what people need or want for some of the mental health issues and I didn’t feel that I had the counseling skills piece.
That’s basically systems theory, when there is a system, when one part of that system is affected, other parts of the system are affected, too. So if you apply that to families, when a family member is ill, it affects the whole family. And we know that we know that just intrinsically, but how does how do we really deconstruct that and look at what that means? And how do we help families through when that happens?
And then I wasn’t really intending to be a family therapist, it was just to how do I then apply that to primary care? And so, practically speaking, what that means is that I am attuned to what’s going on in the context of the patient as a way of understanding all the different factors that are influencing their health and illness, and also vice versa.
(on attending to the mental health psychological factors that influence health) There’s a point at which physicians, even enlightened, open-minded physicians, still will say to a psychologist, “you don’t know what it’s like being a physician”. And so having a physician here saying this is important because it gives it credibility.
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