Massachusetts Medical Society: The MMS Mourns Physician Health Pioneer Michael Palmer, M.D.

The MMS Mourns Physician Health Pioneer Michael Palmer, M.D.

Vital Signs: December 2013/ January 2014

Vital Signs - Michael PalmerMichael S. Palmer, M.D., one of the nation’s leading authorities on physician health and a founding associate director of Physician Health Services (PHS), died suddenly on October 30. He was 71 years old.

In addition to his trail-blazing work on physician health, Dr. Palmer was an accomplished author of 17 suspense novels, including several New York Times bestsellers. His work has been translated into 35 languages.

At the time of his death, Dr. Palmer was an associate director emeritus of Physician Health Services, and was still very actively involved in the organization. He spoke openly about his own recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. In a 1996 New York Times article he said, “You’re taught from the day you start medical school that you’re a god, that you can have power over life and death. So when your life starts to crumble and the highest power you see is looking back in the mirror — and you know that power is flawed — it is very hard to get past that. … The doctor’s intelligence is often a barrier to recovery. But once he gets into recovery, it’s a huge asset because he sees the logic.”

Dr. Palmer was remembered fondly by his colleagues and friends at MMS.

“Michael was, and still is, the spiritual godfather of Physician Health Services. He possessed a unique combination of selflessness, keen intelligence, and compassion. His bottom line was to do what was in the best interest of physicians and patients, and he always stepped up to be helpful in the most trying of circumstances,” said PHS Director Steve Adelman, M.D.

Dr. Palmer served as a clinical instructor in medicine at Tufts University and was on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine.

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