Episode #166: From Casualty to Courageous Leader – with Todd Otten MD


This is a remarkable journey – of a physician who has gone from burnout to creating positive ‘ripples of change’ in our healthcare system. He went from being a casualty of our healthcare system to being a courageous leader. In listening to Dr. Otten’s story, I was moved from anger to elation, and I suspect you will be as well. 

What’s profoundly disturbing is that this physician’s experience of anguish and burnout reflects that of the majority of clinicians and healthcare staff.

What’s inspiring is that this physician made a decision to turn the dismal dilemma of American healthcare into a positive movement to humanize it. What I also admire is his collaborative approach and the inclusion of patients – coupling his initial effort, Ripple of Change, with Medicine Forward and other advocacy/activism groups.  

One takeaway is that we need to change the narrative and the fundamental construct of our healthcare delivery system. We need a renewed sense of purpose & mission, and actually live it – in our policies and procedures – in our organizations – in our payment – in our daily delivery of healthcare. 

What Todd and others are doing is critical and urgent. Over half of US doctors experience burnout. One quarter of the current nursing workforce are planning to leave the system in the next three years. We aren’t at a tipping point. We’ve already tipped over. 

On a very personal human level, Dr. Otten had to first save himself before he could save others. There’s a profound lesson in there for all of us.

Zeev Neuwirth, MD