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Every day, hundreds of sick and injured patients walk into free and charitable clinics around the Tampa Bay area in need of a doctor.Many are suffering from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some patients were referred to the clinics by staff at hospitals where they landed after years of neglecting to care for treatable conditions.The clinics allow the patients to pay what they can, or nothing at all. They are staffed by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time. They survive off donations and small grants.Many of the patients have jobs but they are living paycheck to paycheck. None have health insurance, either because they do not qualify for Medicaid or can’t afford private coverage. For these patients, the clinics are often their only option for primary care.

Meeting Canceled on Med Student Mental Health

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Engin Akyurt
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Discussions about exempting medical students and medical residents from disclosing past mental health treatment on their Florida licensure applications have been put on hold.

The Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine have canceled a Sept. 11 meeting on “health history questions.”

Medical applications for initial licensure and renewal require applicants to disclose whether they have been treated for mental health or substance abuse disorders in the past five years.

The possible move to eliminate the questions comes as Florida and other parts of the country encourage medical students and physicians to seek mental health counseling.

A survey of 862 medical students conducted by the Council of Florida Medical School Deans and the Florida Medical Association in 2014 revealed that 10 percent had thoughts of committing suicide in medical school or of believing they would be better off dead.

Other findings in the 2014 report: 63 percent of people surveyed said their physical health had worsened since beginning medical school, and 60.6 percent reported their psychological health had worsened. According to a 2015 study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, between 300 and 400 physicians commit suicide each year.

The suicide rate among men who are physicians is 1.41 times higher than for the general population of men, the study found. The risk is even higher for female physicians - 2.27 times greater than for the general population of women in Florida.

The medical boards have been grappling unsuccessfully with the issue since 2017. It wasn’t immediately clear why the meeting was canceled.