Physician Spotlight: Chris Foret, MD

September 1, 2022
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Portrait of Dr. Chris Foret

On burnout, value-based care and rural medicine

Every single day in the year 2019, at least one doctor committed suicide. Family physicians are in the top five specialties at the highest risk for burnout, and about 60% of them won’t seek help.

“That’s what motivates me.”

Dr. Chris Foret, top-performing family medicine physician in rural St. Tammany parish, serves as an American Academy of Family Physicians “Leading Physician Wellness Scholar.” He joins 120 of his fellow AAFP physician colleagues around the country seeking to harness tools to combat burnout, improve clinical teamwork and promote higher value in healthcare.

“The physician can’t do this alone.”

Foret recently gave a talk at the LAFP Annual Assembly held in New Orleans, LA. He says that much of healthcare’s responsibilities fall on the shoulders of physicians…

“You don’t have to ask a physician to know whether he or she is burned out…”

That’s where communication and teamwork come in. These aspects of operational medicine are the keys to cultivating joy at work, and at the same time, advancing care and outcomes for patients.

If you talk to Dr. Chris Foret on the phone, you can almost hear the smile in his voice. How is that possible? “Improvement begins and ends with our staff,” Foret explains. They make his job easier and better, and so he tries to  extend gratitude towards them every five to six days. He also acknowledges that mindfulness, good sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet reduce the effects burnout.

Dr. Chris Foret with his father and daughter at home looking at laptop.

In addition to practicing gratitude and living well, the AAFP recommends that physicians should seek to rediscover purpose in their work. When asked what he’s passionate about, Foret points to population health and the emphasis on primary care. As a high-scoring rural practitioner and member of OHN, he’s excited about bringing value-driven care to his patients, rather than expecting patients to travel away from home for important services. He and his staff take pride in teaching patients how weight control, diabetes management and cancer screenings can not only save lives, but also save money on their healthcare bills. He's particularly pleased with St. Tammany Parish Hospital’s “Be Well” bus – a mobile mammography unit – where hundreds of his at-risk patients have been screened for breast cancer. Also, the uptick in compliance with fecal immunochemical testing – a seemingly “easier-to-sell” and lower-cost alternative to colonoscopy – has made early detection of colon cancer a reality for many in his community.

Foret, married 28 years and father of a third-year medical student, enjoys traveling, Cross Fit, pickle ball, and jogging. He also reads – his favorites include Phone Calls from Heaven, by Mitch Albom, anything by James Patterson, and the wisdom of Brene’ Brown.

Foret’s approach to his career, dedication to reversing the burnout trends among his fellow physicians and work-life balance are commendable. Perhaps there’s nothing like a daughter following in her father’s footsteps to inspire physician champions like Chris Foret. “We owe it our young doctors to get this right,” he concludes.

For more tools on burnout, read AAFP’s latest information.

(Pictured: Three generations of Foret physicians!)

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