The Mindful Physician with Dr. Roberto P. Benzo

Dr. Roberto P. Benzo speaking to the PLA

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and stay present. This is one of the many ways to begin a mindfulness practice. The Physicians Leadership Academy (PLA) gathered to discuss the Mindful Physician on Thursday May 6th with Dr. Roberto P. Benzo, founding director of the Mayo Clinic’s Mindful Breathing Laboratory. “Mindfulness is the attention we put into being in the present moment. It’s the awareness that comes from being in the here and now without judging the situation as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Just trying to be here and trying to observe,” Benzo explained. 

The class began with the current PLA fellows sitting on the floor in a circle, shoes off, and cell phones in a basket in the middle. “It’s the only safe place for them,” said Benzo. After introductions, Benzo said health is not the lack of disease, it is balance, which is why staying present with mindfulness can be so beneficial. “I think for anything that we do, to fully dive into what you’re doing with undivided attention is of great importance,” said Benzo. “To appreciate what you are doing and give best for whatever you’re doing in the moment,” said Benzo.

The physicians spoke about how they don’t feel it’s possible to be present with patients especially because of new Electronic Medical Record (EMR) requirements and how constant typing can feel like it’s taking away from the human interaction. One participant mentioned they took notes on paper during patient visits and stayed up later at night finishing up the EMRs, just to be able to have that ever important one-on-one time with a patient but, understandably, felt that still wasn’t helping the issue. Benzo pointed out that this is a perfect example of something they can’t change at the moment but must balance in their daily lives. “The system changes all the time, but no one can take away my need to be human and in touch with my patient.” said Benzo.


Then the class switched the focus to what gives their lives meaning. This heavy question is an important one to beginning a mindfulness practice. Benzo explained that having an answer to this question can drastically improve not only your quality of life but life expectancy as well. The class ended with Benzo leading the class in some simple mindful yoga poses to show that a mindfulness practice doesn’t always have to include meditation.  

The benefits of mindfulness continue to come to light as it is studied more. This is why it is one of the core principals of the PLA. “For physicians, we have in our hands the lives of people and everything that comes with that. Not only just a disease but a whole human being with emotions and situations that affect the function of the organs. So, for us, I think mindfulness is a critical piece of embracing the phenomenon of another human being’s suffering and bringing the full attention to the science of medicine and the healing of medicine.”


Learn more about the PLA and how they encourage mindfulness for physicians here.

Want to apply for the 2019/2020 PLA class and make the shift from surviving to thriving? Click here.