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The Best Op-Meds of 2023

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

In 2023, Op-Med published more than 500 essays from Doximity members, who shared the good, the bad, the sad, the funny, and everything else that comes with working in medicine. It is from this group of writers that we bring you this year's winners of the Op-Med Awards.

The Op-Med Awards highlight exceptional publications in six categories as voted on by the editorial staff: Community Favorite (the piece driving the most community engagement); Foreground Award (the best discussion of a new or existing problem in health care); Pathos Award (the most moving piece); Rising Star (the most promising voice among first-time contributors in 2023); Best Op-Med Fellow Piece (the best work by one of our Op-Med Fellows); Editor’s Pick (our top choice overall).

We hope you enjoy this year’s winners.

Community Favorite

How a Physician Transitioned Into Retirement by Hayward Keith Zwerling, MD

Many go into medicine because they are perfectionists, go getters, or want to make a difference in someone’s life. The choice to retire brings up existential questions: “Am I ready to shed my professional identity? Will retirement be personally fulfilling? How will I maintain a circle of friends? What is my purpose in life? Will I be bored?”

In a widely discussed Op-Med with more than 400 comments, Dr. Zwerling explains why he decided to leave practice, how he eased into retirement, and what he plans to do now that he’s out of medicine.

Runner-up: Doctors Are Reluctant to Unionize. Why? by David M Sack, MD

Foreground Award 

A Vaccine Confession by Jennifer Boyle, MD

Providing medical recommendations often feels like a tightrope act — a balance between clarity with patients and the rigid rhetoric that can alienate them. The emergence of COVID-19 has made this dynamic all the more tenuous. Amid the uncertainty of a new disease and the politicization of its treatment, clinicians seem to have been left in the dust. Dr. Boyle tackles the post-pandemic reality that clinicians now face in an intimate discussion covering vaccination and the opaque guidelines surrounding them. Her thoughtful commentary underscores not only clinicians’ daily struggle but also the means through which the medical community may one day overcome it. 

Runner-up: Defund the ACGME by Brian Brandon Gilmer, MD

Pathos Award 

The Moment I Chose to Just Be Mom by Emily Wetherholt, PharmD

Navigating the delicate balance between caregiver and parent is an experience the author, a pharmacist, knows all too well. In a poignant reflection, she shares the heart-wrenching journey of her son Wyatt's medical battle, from the initial diagnosis to his final moments. As she grapples with the intersection of her professional knowledge and personal grief, she sheds light on the complexities of being both a medical professional and a parent in crisis. In the face of unimaginable loss, the author finds solace in the agency to choose her role in Wyatt's care, ultimately embracing the role of a devoted mother above all else. 

Runner-up: How My Late Physician Father Has Followed My Medical Career by Danielle Wenger, Medical Student

Rising Star

For Every First There Is a Last by Assma Itani, DO

In her first contribution to Op-Med, Dr. Itani, now an internal medicine resident, shares the story of a patient she met during her IM rotation whose only advocate was his home health aid. In sensitive yet spirited prose, Dr. Itani explains how she was inspired by the aid’s devotion to “take control of the situation” and ensure that the blind, hospital-bound patient receive needed help with his meals — a process that strengthened the future doctor’s resolve to go into internal medicine. This theme of deep care despite constraints on time, staffing, and status within the medical hierarchy will resonate with any clinician, as will the panache with which Dr. Itani puts her story to the page.

Runner-up: How My Physics Training Prepared Me for Medicine by Samuel Borer, Medical Student

Best Op-Med Fellow Piece 

As a Primary Care Physician, I Am Also the "Department of Complaints" by Melissa Schiffman, MD

Doximity Op-Med Fellows are regular contributors to Op-Med. They produce narrative essays on general interest, specialty-specific, and locality-specific topics. In the best Fellows submission of 2023, Dr. Schiffman, an internist, shares an encounter where a patient takes up precious appointment time with issues that have nothing to do with the chief complaint. She confesses: “As is often the case, I felt less like a trusted health care professional, and more like a Department of Complaints.” Dr. Schiffman, a two-time Op-Med Fellow, writes with levity and understanding, and suggests solutions for the problem of patients who bring their baggage to the office. 

Runner-up: The Art of Dying by Caitlin Cain, MD

Editor’s Pick

Radical Love: On Art and Medicine by Alexandra Gordon, MD

In the editors’ favorite piece of the year, an artist and physician offers a new framework for viewing patients: as “whole people” rather than bodies with a “problem list to be addressed.” Upon encountering a patient who resembles an artist’s model she once painted, Dr. Gordon reflects on how “art-making relies on witnessing and connecting with others” — a “careful devotion and attention” to both the micro and macro that enhances not only artistic creation, but the patient-clinician relationship. She writes: “In creating artwork, I can’t hide indifference because it shows up as carelessness on the canvas. I’ve learned to give attention to people and things that I’m not necessarily drawn to immediately.” We hope you do the same — stay and give attention — with this remarkable piece and the other award-winners above.

Runner-up: Why This Doctor Imagines His Own Funeral Every Year by Francisco Torres, MD

Do you want the chance to see your name on this list? Submit to Op-Med by emailing

Illustration by Diana Connolly

All opinions published on Op-Med are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of Doximity or its editors. Op-Med is a safe space for free expression and diverse perspectives. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email

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