EP40 Iris Schrijver

Episode 40 – Stanford Physician Writes the Book on Wellbeing


Author and certified lifestyle medicine physician, Iris Schrijver, MD, describes a fulfilling and fast-paced academic career at Stanford as a full professor of pathology and director of a molecular genetics research lab. A few years ago, in an unlikely turn of events, an opportunity to design a leadership project ignited her long simmering interest in wellbeing.

That project culminated in a 2016 research article An Exploration of Key Issues and Potential Solutions that Impact Physician Wellbeing and Professional Fulfilment at an Academic Center. I give you the details here because this is the article that led me to reach out to Dr. Schrijver. I had read everything and everyone with a scholarly approach to physician burnout in preparation for several podcasts.  Dr. Schrijver’s article was one of the most outstanding and useful of the scores of articles I read. In our conversation, she describes how important it was for her to have the credibility of being a physician as she interviewed her colleagues about the underpinnings of burnout. She also describes how extrinsic factors, such as restricted autonomy, dominated the findings which contributed to physician burnout.

She and her husband, an astrophysicist, decided there was more they wanted to accomplish and experience beyond their fulfilling but all-consuming careers. The magnificent Oregon landscape was pulling them away.

Dr. Schrijver describes how she consciously made changes to create the life she wanted. She decided to pursue a certificate in lifestyle medicine, write a book on wellbeing, and contribute to medicine and patients in a different way. They moved to Clackamas County, Oregon, and she began volunteer work at the Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine Clinic—including a stint as medical director and a board member.  Now she is developing a lifestyle medicine service for the Clinic.  She finds the work remarkably rewarding. As she says, “Poverty is not a crime, and it is a privilege to provide good medical care for this population.” She continues to serve as adjunct pathology faculty at Stanford.

Dr. Schrijver describes an interaction with a mentor early in her career who gave her a pointed introduction to her leadership accountabilities as a physician. It served her well. She has served in academic and national leadership roles, including as the President of the Association for Molecular Pathology.

She connects the scientific method, physician leadership, and physician wellbeing to the important task of promulgating accurate and useful information to the public.  Dr. Schrijver makes a compelling case in her book and in our conversation that we can take steps to improve wellbeing. We can envision and create a more fulfilling life for ourselves and guide our patients to greater wellbeing as well.

Also in this episode:

  • The Six Principles of Lifestyle Medicine
  • Mentoring advice to physicians making their first career move
  • Does Press Ganey turn doctors into Nordstrom clerks?
  • How alliances can serve physicians in attaining wellbeing
  • Seeking resilience is aiming too low—aim to thrive

Meet Iris Schrijver, MD

Iris Schrijver is a certified lifestyle medicine physician, also specialized in clinical pathology and molecular genetics. She is an adjunct clinical professor of pathology at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a past president of the Association for Molecular Pathology. Dr. Schrijver served as medical director of Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine, and is now developing a lifestyle medicine service there, because she believes that healthcare is a basic human right.

Her dedication to patients and to medical progress through science has resulted in the publication of many original research articles, book chapters, and books. Together with her husband, an astrophysicist, she wrote “Living with the Stars”, a popular science book about connections between the human body and the Universe. Her passion for lifestyle medicine, science, education, and the possibility of wellbeing for everyone sparked her latest work: “On the Path to Health, Wellbeing, and Fulfilment: To Your Health“.

This book investigates the basis of what we think we know about healthy living, and reveals the influences on the use and understanding of health information. It shows how scientific breakthroughs shed light on health, causes of disease, and overall wellbeing throughout life.

Iris lives and works near Portland, Oregon, and enjoys the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about Iris and her new book at lifestyleforhealthandwellness.com.



Clackamus Volunteers in Medicine https://clackamasvim.org/ An Exploration of Key Issues and Potential Solutions that Impact Physician Wellbeing and Professional Fulfillment at an Academic Center https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4793321/