Wendy Dean, MD

Putting Patients First: Why It's So Hard and How Action Can Create Positive Change

Feeling trapped between the patient-first values of your Hippocratic oath and the business imperatives of a broken healthcare system? Dr. Wendy Dean explains the distress of this reality as “moral injury,” a condition unique to physicians. You know what patients need but can’t get it for them because of constraints imposed by healthcare systems run like big businesses.

Citing her newly released book, If I Betray These Words, Dr. Dean will discuss the threat and broken promises inherent in moral injury and how family physicians can join advocacy and coalition efforts to fight back against it. With a focus on reframing and repair, Dr. Dean will help motivate attendees to rally for better healthcare — for patients and for the family physician workforce. Her primary message: “It’s time to act!”

Hear from Dr. Wendy Dean

Saturday, October 28 | 9:30–11 a.m.

Biography: Wendy Dean, MD

President, Co-founder at Moral Injury of Healthcare

Dr. Dean is changing the language and the approach to physician distress in health care. She was the first to use the term moral injury to describe the deep soul wound that affects a person’s identity, sense of morality, and relationship to society. Physicians who experience moral injury are unable to provide high-quality care.  

Often misdiagnosed as burnout, moral injury must be understood more broadly. Burnout suggests a health professional is at fault for their emotional state. They aren’t resilient enough. They need to learn to recover better. Moral injury suggests something larger is at play. The consequences of this terminology and mindset change are immense as more becomes known about how hospital dynamics, insurance, litigation, electronic medical records, and policy must evolve for health professionals to thrive. 

Dr. Dean has worked in research funding oversight for the Department of Defense and as a non-profit leader supporting military medical research at Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine. She has participated in efforts sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Agency, DARPA, NASA, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and others. As Medical Advisor at Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Program Management Office for the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Dr. Dean’s expertise influenced FDA licensing for a $300 million portfolio of Department of Defense (DoD)-funded regenerative medicine research programs.  

Dr. Dean graduated from Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She did her residency training at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, New Hampshire. A psychiatrist by training, she left clinical medicine when generating revenue crowded out the patient-centered priorities in her practice. Her focus since has been on finding innovative ways to make medicine better for patients and health care professionals technologically, ethically and systemically.  

Dr. Dean’s expertise is widely sought on moral injury in health care, women’s leadership, government health care investment strategy, medical product development, clinical practice, research oversight and the ethics of medical innovations.

Meet Your Other Main Stage Keynotes

Friday, October 27

Dr. Steven Furr

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Friday, October 27

Allyson Felix

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Sunday, October 29

Dr. Frank Domino

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