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Physicians as Systemic Change Leaders: Six Applications of Polarity Thinking in Support of Physician Leadership Development

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Margaret facilitated a polarity management exercise for physician and medical student members of Physicians for Human Rights. PHR “uses medicine and science to document and call attention to mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. PHR was founded on the idea that physicians, scientists, and other health professionals possess unique skills that lend significant credibility to the investigation and documentation of human rights abuses.” Check out their report “Violence on the Front Lines: Attacks on Health Care in 2017.” This report documents more than 700 separate attacks on hospitals, health workers, patients in ambulances in 23 countries.”

In bearing witness to and documenting human rights violations, physicians often focus on the needs of others, rather than their own needs. Their personal lives, and their mental health often suffer. In taking this group through a polarity exercise, we gave them a “road map” for what to look out for in themselves and their colleagues. Walking them through the polarity loop, and having them stand in each quadrant to feel what it would be like to be in the upsides and downsides of patients and of self, provoked deep conversations about what they felt, what they wanted to feel, and their mission – to help others AND themselves.

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