'Resilient Threads:' Chattanooga doctor's new book aims to support, empower health care professionals

Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Dr. Mukta Panda directs a role-play for student doctor's to "walk a mile in a patient's shoes," as part of Health and Technology training at Erlanger.

After discovering a close friend and colleague had taken his own life, Dr. Mukta Panda felt compelled to do more to support and empower other health care professionals.

Panda, an award-winning physician, speaker and facilitator, is a professor and assistant dean for well-being and medical student education at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine at Chattanooga. Her new book, "Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being," is a memoir that aims to highlight what she calls an epidemic of physician burnout, depression and suicide and show others who feel overwhelmed by demanding careers that they're not alone.

"This was a hard book to write, because it's really baring my soul, but it's very important to me," Panda said. "It's my voice collectively with those in any vocation - not just health care - who feel powerless against a system."

Panda is passionate about clinician self-care, colleague care and well-being. In her book, she shares her journey practicing medicine and her strategies for maintaining joy in her work and teaching young doctors in training how to do the same.

"Training in medical school onwards mainly focuses on disease management. We seldom acknowledge that we, the caregivers, are people like our patients," Panda writes in the introduction. "We journey through milestones of our own maturing: financial stresses, marriage, parenting, career transitions, personal losses, health challenges, becoming caregivers of family and patients. We rarely speak about 'how to live' through and in spite of our stress as human beings within our various roles."

While any reader may find interest in her work, Panda said she wanted to speak directly to exhausted professionals, such as health care workers, and women who are struggling to balance life demands across roles, functions and cultures.

"There remains a real and formidable glass ceiling for women in both medicine and academia," she said.

Amy Edmondson, an author and professor at Harvard Business School, wrote that Panda captures what it means to be a compassionate physician through her perspectives as a medical educator, mother and an immigrant.

"By weaving her own story of belonging, as a young girl in India to an East Tennessee transplant, with the stories of her patients, students and colleagues, she models how each and every one of us can build resilience through self-awareness and story-sharing," Edmondson said.

Panda said she's always drawn courage through relationships and sharing stories with others.

"Ritual, relationships and reflection are key threads in how I learned to thrive," she said. "I hope that these stories will resonate in some way or the other, and give them an opportunity to reflect, and in many ways, applaud themselves."

For more information, visit www.MuktaPandaMD.com or Star Line Books in Chattanooga. The book is also available on Amazon.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.