Pilot program improves wellness, work productivity of physician parents

September 26, 2022

2 minutes read



Li J. Supporting Our Physician Parents (SOPPort): A Pilot Parental Wellbeing Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Presented at: Women in Medicine Summit; 16-17 Sept 2022; Chicago.

Li and Dichtel are not reporting any relevant financial disclosures.

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The central theses

  • New and prospective physician parents found that a pilot program improved their productivity during their return to work, with most saying the program’s coaching sessions and breastfeeding grants were “particularly helpful.”
  • The program is designed to help doctors at a difficult point in their careers and avoid burnout.
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CHICAGO — A small pilot program improved the well-being and work productivity of expectant and new doctor parents by offering them coaching sessions and breastfeeding support grants, according to a recent study.

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In conversation with Healio, lead author Josephine Li, MDan endocrinologist in the Diabetes Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and senior author laura sealmdan assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, said inspiration for the program came from her own experiences, which she described as a vulnerable time for returning physician parents who are “often unable to stand up for themselves.”


Data sourced from: Li J. Supporting Our Physician Parents (SOPPort): A Pilot Program for Parental Wellbeing at Massachusetts General Hospital. Presented at: Women in Medicine Summit; 16-17 Sept 2022; Chicago.

“Many of us had started families as fellows or junior staff, and we realized that we could all have benefited from a coach – an ‘expert’ parent who had been through it before – who could offer practical advice, guidance to all children-to-be and support provides phase and early parenting. We asked ourselves, ‘What would I have wanted to know before I started maternity leave and when I returned to work?’” they said in a joint email.

The program, titled Support Our Physician Parents (SOPPort), aimed not only to provide breastfeeding and nutritional support for returning physician parents, but also to reduce burnout and increase productivity.

Li and Dichtel, who presented their study at the Women In Medicine Summit in Chicago, noted that the core components of SOPPort included “the coaching program designed to help new doctor parents avoid reinventing the wheel, so to speak.” providing them with practical advice on topics such as planning and preparing for parental leave, arranging health and/or research insurance, breastfeeding and pumping, childcare options, staying in touch as new parents and staying productive in the face of new time constraints.”

The coaching program consisted of four 1-hour sessions for 11 physicians (8 men; 3 women) during the pregnancy phase up to the age of 1 year of their children. A dozen doctors received $500 in grants to help pay for portable pumps, infant formula, or feeding supplies.

Six participants took an anonymous survey, and 100% of them felt the program improved their productivity at work. Parent coaching and breastfeeding grants were “particularly helpful” for 100% and 83%, respectively.

In a survey of medical school physicians who were ineligible for the pilot program, 78% rated their return to work after childbirth as “difficult” or “very difficult”, with 82% saying there was no one at the work to help them with the transition and 96% said the SOPPort program would have been helpful to them.

Li and Dichtel noted that securing funding for programs like SOPPort is challenging, but the positive testimonials they received from participants in the program “really says it all” — suggesting it improves well-being, reduces burnout , helps maintain academic productivity and strengthens the health care community.

“There is still work to be done to support new parents in medicine, but we are proud to offer this program to physician parents at our facility and will remain committed to parent wellbeing and breastfeeding support,” they said .