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Physician Q&A With Michael Ascher, MD

Michael Ascher, MD, is a clinical assistant professor of Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. An accomplished clinician and educator, Dr. Ascher is also an established writer with frequent mental health columns in the Huffington Post.

He also serves on the editorial board for Clinical Psychiatry News, and is co-editor of The Behavioral Addictions. Among his other editorial works are educational materials and books for medical students.

Dr. Ascher was one of PAMED's Top Physicians Under 40 in 2017. PAMED caught up with him for this Q&A:

Q: Why did you become a physician?

A: Both my parents are physicians and I always admired the work they did to help others. I wanted to follow in their footsteps to treat those in pain or suffering.

I also wanted to get the same enjoyment out of my career that they both did. Initially, I was interested in social work or psychology and I continue to have deep respect for the work that those professionals do on a daily basis.

During college, I developed an interest in psychopharmacology and wanted to learn more about medications that can influence mental health. Ultimately, this led me to medical school and an eventual career in psychiatry.

Q: What inspires you in your practice?

A: My clients inspire me. Their courage and vulnerability when they come into my office and share their stories in an attempt to do things differently and change their lives is remarkable and inspiring.

I am also inspired by new treatment options and new ways of thinking about addiction. Finally, I am inspired by the collaborative relationships I have developed with other physicians, psychologists, social workers, and like-minded providers.

I believe in a holistic and personalized approach to mental health care and enjoy working with others who do too.

Q: What are the biggest challenges of being a young physician?

A: A lot of my patients who suffer from substance use disorders put themselves in very risky and dangerous situations. Every day, I am getting better at learning to disconnect from my clinical work and do more self-care so that I can be a more effective provider.

Q: What do you do to achieve work/life balance?

A: Work/life balance is a work in progress for me. I work long hours during the week, so my weekends are my time to relax, exercise, and spend time with my wife and daughter.

I take my daughter to soccer class every Saturday morning and play tennis every Sunday. I also make an effort to speak to my mother, father, and sister at least once a week and plan visits with them.

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