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Lisa Rotenstein

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Health care is typically criticized for being too much like a business, with cost and incentive structures playing too influential a role. But by focusing on hard metrics like a business would, Lisa Rotenstein hopes her work can decrease burnout and increase diversity in medicine.

She first noticed the themes that would drive her career as a dual-degree student at Harvard’s medical and business schools.

“Ideally, we are creating systems, teams, and reimbursement structures that make it possible for clinicians who are well to make patients well and happy, too.”

“From attendings to residents, I was seeing my peers struggling with burnout and depression, and at the same time in business school seeing my colleagues, who were on the way to becoming executives, learn about how to manage a workforce and how to motivate people,” she said. 

She saw what others could not: a way to show how the infrastructure of medicine, like electronic health records and patient messaging portals, influences the wellbeing of physicians. But before she could study ways of addressing burnout, stress, and depression, she had to prove they existed. Her foundational work tracks the prevalence of provider burnout across race and gender, and has cemented the connection between burnout and time spent on EHRs and after-hours messages.

Rotenstein next plans to study the ways in which health care providers’ emotional health may impact their patients’ health outcomes — with the goal of improving both.

“Ideally, we are creating systems, teams, and reimbursement structures that make it possible for clinicians who are well to make patients well and happy, too,” she said.

But her research papers have omitted the names of several key contributors: her cats Sydney, Lucky, and the recently departed Cruiser.

Maddie Bender