As 2023 comes to a close, so too does our first year bringing you InSight+ every week.

It’s been a challenging year, but also a rewarding one, as the InSight+ team worked hard to bring you the latest medical news and expert opinion with each issue.

Before we head off on a well earned holiday, we wanted to take a moment to look back at some of the highlights of 2023: the good, the bad, and the slightly unusual.

A burnt-out health care workforce

The spectre of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to haunt us, and climate change is on everyone’s mind as we stare down the barrel of another scorching summer.

But it can be hard to give the necessary attention to these broader issues when you’re already overwhelmed by the more personal challenges on your plate.

We heard from many contributors about how health care professionals are feeling burnt out, bullied, and cut down by their own peers.

In fact, they are feeling the strain before they’ve even completed their degrees, what with the soul-crushing exams and gruelling trainee programs.

“As a working GP, I saw many patients whose acute mental health decompensation was directly associated with workplace experiences, and among those were medical practitioners, nurses and allied health professionals,” Dr Jillan Farmer wrote in her article on bullying and racism in medicine.

In her Every doctor series, Professor Leanne Rowe encouraged health professionals to work together to create more psychologically safe workplaces.

“As a united medical profession, we can do so much more to cocreate psychologically safe workplaces and heal work-related mental injury for future generations of doctors — for the health and wellbeing of our patients, our families and ourselves,” Professor Rowe wrote.

Sharing your stories

It’s easy to feel dismayed by the doom and gloom, but our contributors also shared some uplifting personal stories with us this year.

Dr Aajuli Shukla shared her thoughts on navigating love as a doctor, with a tongue-in-cheek lament on how reality doesn’t always match up to the expectations set by Grey’s Anatomy.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single doctor in possession of any semblance of free time must be in want of a partner,” Dr Shukla wrote, with a nod to Jane Austen.

Dr Mogeshni Govender shared her beautiful art with us, and talked about the healing power of art for doctors as well as their patients.

The healing power of art for doctors and their patients - Featured Image
Mogeshni Govender (2018). Faces within faces. Black and white charcoal on brown paper. For the Arts in Medicine Competition, Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide, SA.

We heard from health professionals from all walks from life, from being a neurodivergent doctor with Dr Israel Berger to being an obese doctor with Dr Tanvir Kapoor.

“I wrote this essay after a beautiful morning walk without shame about my body,” Dr Kapoor wrote in his moving article. “My dear colleagues, it has taken almost my entire life to get to this point: a point where I can, in Walt Whitman’s words, ‘finally sing the body electric’ in order to achieve ‘the exquisite realisation of health’.”

We also acknowledge Dr Marion Mateos, who wrote a two-part series on balancing oncology and motherhood during the COVID-19 pandemic (here and here).

Stocking stuffers

For something a little different, I wanted to leave you with some of my favourite interesting titbits of information I learned this year, which you can pull out at the family Christmas gathering when there’s a lull in conversation.

Why not point out to your old-fashioned uncle how gender bias is so ingrained in our society that even medical research has historically focused only on male participants?

You could be a hit at the kids’ table by talking about the hero chickens working to protect people from mosquito-borne viruses, or how microscopic spikes inspired by insect wings could help combat bacteria, like something out of a sci-fi movie.

And when Aunt Linda comments on that second helping of pavlova and how she’d love to get her hands on some of that Ozempic (Novo Nordisk) she keeps hearing about, you can point out how coopting vital medications for reasons outside of their intended purpose is harmful, and how it may not even be the magic weight loss solution she’s hoping for anyway.

A big thank you

Finally, we wanted to give a big thank you to our wonderful contributors, especially our regular contributors Dr Will Cairns OAM, Dr Jillann Farmer, Associate Professor Louise Stone and Professor Leanne Rowe AM.

A big thank you to our journalists, Caitlin Wright and Becca Whitehead, for their deep dives into the biggest stories of the year.

And of course, thank you to our readers for coming along on this 2023 journey with us.

For those celebrating Christmas, we wish you a happy Christmas. We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

Sam Hunt is the editor of InSight+ and the news and online editor of the Medical Journal of Australia.

Annika Howells is the communications specialist of the Medical Journal of Australia and InSight+.

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