To a physician already suffering the fatigue or despair of burnout, the idea of spending additional time in a volunteering capacity might sound counter-intuitive.
However, research has shown that the benefits of volunteering in any capacity are remarkable—including increased sense of purpose and well-being, and protections against cognitive and physical decline. One physician has found that volunteering especially fills him up when he’s feeling empty.
Eric Mizuno, MD, an internist for OMNI Healthcare Clinic in Chicago, recently spent time offering disaster relief care in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
It’s not the first time he’s jumped at the chance to volunteer in a crisis, either—he was on a plane to New Orleans within 24 hours of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“If we burn out, [we need to] reconnect with why we went into medicine in the first place, which hopefully is to serve others,” he says.
Mizuno definitely sees medicine as a calling, and feels that it’s in his DNA to help others. However, helping others, he says, isn’t pure altruism, but driven by the fact that “you get more than you give. So, selfishly, I want to help somebody because it makes me happy to do that.”
He sees nothing wrong with the “selfish” part of altruism, since it has the effect of improving life for other people.