Bob Carr, MD, MHA – Finding Purpose and Growth in the COVID-19 Crisis

Is it Too Early to Consider How You Can Grow from the COVID-19 Crisis?

For physicians, nurses and other providers, it’s hard right now to think about anything other than how to get through today, and maybe the next week.  Then there is the uncertainty about what their world will look like when we come out of this.

But perhaps there is no better time to start thinking about what you can learn, and how you can grow, from this.  More importantly, though, it might help you to focus on the positive for a moment and to start building strength around a self-transcending purpose.

See our blog about applying High Reliability Organization concepts to the COVID-19 Crisis.

Our Guest Blogger – Bob Carr, MD, MPH

No one is better suited to speak about this topic, to this audience, than Bob Carr, M.D., MPH.  He is the Past President of the American College of Preventive Medicine and previously served as an Associate Professor of Leadership and Health Systems, and as the Director of the Executive Masters’ Program in Health Systems Administration, at Georgetown University, as well as the Senior Vice President and Corporate Medical Director at Glaxo-Smith-Kline.

Currently he serves as a coach to physicians and physician leaders and is the Chief Medical Officer at Kumanu, a company helping people and organizations build authentic connections to deeper purpose through advanced science and technology.  Much of his career has focused on wellness and purpose. See Kumanu, Purpose in Action.

Growth from Trauma

I’m looking differently at this epidemic. 

  • “I discovered that I’m stronger than I thought I was.”
  • “I changed my priorities about what is important in life.”
  • “I established a new path for my life.”

These three statements are part of a larger scale measuring Posttraumatic Growth.  The media loves to talk about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but can we grow from stress? 

The answer is clear: Absolutely!

Research has demonstrated posttraumatic growth from earthquakes, tsunamis, war, cancer, and loss of loved ones. We can also grow from our experience with COVID-19.  Friedrich Nietzsche famously stated: “A man with a why to live for can bear any how!!” 

Does purpose increase career path confidence and satisfaction?  Read about supporting physician success with an innovative program at Yale Medicine.

Reflections, and Self-Efficacy

If you’re reading this, perhaps you can stop and reflect on the what you might learn from the COVID-19 experience. 

  • What have you done that you feel has been successful in diminishing the effects of COVID-19? 
  • How will this experience make you more aware and better prepared for future pandemics (which will almost doubtlessly occur)? 

In psychology, this is called self-efficacy, and the strongest way to build self-efficacy is through previous accomplishments. How will you become stronger as a result of this experience?

Now let’s take those two statements together. Taking a fresh look at what matters most in your life, and establishing a new path, is all about purpose. And what if it was a self-transcending purpose? 

Self-Transcending Purpose

What if life is less about the NCAA basketball tournament and more about finding new ways of interacting with your family? 

What if life is less about stripping the shelves bare of hand sanitizer and more about helping other people and healthcare and community organizations cope with the extraordinary challenges they’re facing?

Research has demonstrated that people with self-transcending purpose produce more antibodies.   Strength of purpose, produced through regular compassion toward others — even those they don’t like —  has been shown to increase telomerase, the fuel of our telomeres – the chromosomal “caps” that keep our DNA (and us) healthy. 

One thing we know about COVID-19 is that people are differentially susceptible to its effects. We don’t know whether having a self-transcending purpose can buffer the effects of COVID-19, but it probably doesn’t hurt to try.

Stop and think about a time in your life when you experienced the greatest amount of personal growth? Was it when you were on the beach drinking martinis? Or was it from a period of great challenge?   Consider using the challenge of COVID-19 to build strength and self-transcending purpose. Let’s grow from this experience.

More Information

A special thanks to Dr. Carr.  The J3P team continues to support our hospital and physician group clients through these challenging times, through coaching, strategic planning and continuing to focus on important communication and teamwork skills.  To learn more about our work, visit us at