What medical specialty is the happiest? One doctor says Rheumatologists

shutterstock_150766352One of our Rheumatologists recently shared why he believes his is the best specialty.  See why rheumatologists are the happiest physicians.  Do you agree?

In 2012, Medscape published results of a survey on physician happiness by specialty. And despite having the lowest income in the survey, rheumatologists were the happiest.

These findings prompted an excellent article in The Rheumatologist by James O’Dell who listed the top 10 reasons why rheumatologists were happy. Most were absolutely true such as having excellent therapies for many diseases we see and forming long-term relationships with our patients. What I disagreed on was the comment that the specialty self-selects happy people. While that may be true for some, it was certainly not true for me.

Midway though my internal medicine residency, I realized I had made a huge mistake and that I did not want to do general internal medicine. Although I was not suicidal, I was unhappy. So I reassessed what I wanted to do. Logically enough, I thought about which patients I truly enjoyed seeing. And the patients I enjoyed seeing most had arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis. By far, they were the most grateful for whatever relief could be provided to them.

And, decades later, I am still happiest treating rheumatoid arthritis. I can recall numerous patients who have had dramatic transformations in their lives with treatment. What’s more, they deeply appreciate it.

I can recall one woman especially who was around 50 when I first saw her. 15 years later, she was evaluating insurance plans and wanted to be sure I was on her plan. As she pointed out to me then, she had been in a wheelchair when she first saw me, wearing a robe and fuzzy pink slippers. Even though she had been in remission and quite functional for years, she was basically bedridden when I first saw her. And while that fact had slipped my memory, it never slipped hers. These comments are common in this field.

So for those medical students or residents considering what path to take, consider rheumatology. I can personally assure you that the power of positive reinforcement should never be underestimated as a contributor to happiness.


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