Cedars-Sinai Blog

Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Dr. Arnold Gilberg

Dr. Arnold Gilberg helps exhausted doctors fighting burnout.

Meet Dr. Arnold Gilberg, a leading psychiatrist and member of Cedars-Sinai's attending staff and teaching faculty for more than 58 years. 

The last person alive to be trained by Dr. Franz Alexander—a distinguished colleague of Sigmund Freud—Gilberg completed his psychiatric training at Cedars-Sinai, where he was chief psychiatric resident and served as clinical chief of psychiatry and a member of the medical executive committee.

"I feel strongly that we need to give physicians and other first responders tools to help themselves and to understand they're not alone in their feelings."

Cedars-Sinai psychiatrist Dr. Arnold Gilberg.

Over the course of his long and successful career, he has been a tireless advocate for the wellbeing of patients and physicians alike, most recently with a gift to sponsor the Arnold L. Gilberg, MD, PhD, Lectureship in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.

We spoke to Dr. Gilberg to learn more about his career at Cedars-Sinai and his focus on the mental wellness of healthcare professionals.

What prompted your donation to sponsor a lectureship focused on wellness for healthcare professionals?

Dr. Arnold Gilberg: Physician burnout is a real thing, and it has become particularly acute during the pandemic. The very nature of their occupation makes stress levels high, and their exposure to trauma is chronic.

Being a doctor is a tough profession. I feel strongly that we need to give physicians and other first responders tools to help themselves and to understand they're not alone in their feelings.

What do you see as barriers to physicians accessing vital mental health resources?

AG: Unfortunately, most physicians do not avail themselves of the services at their disposal. This is multi-determined: Some doctors will seek help, but many are in denial about burnout and other psychological issues, while some attempt to self-treat. 

The best way for them to mitigate against their suffering is to recognize the impact of their stress and how it might be influencing their decisions, and then to reach out to other professionals, friends, religious counselors or anyone else they can turn to for support.

You mentioned religious counselors: What role can spirituality play?

AG: In my own life and practice, I have found spirituality to be important in alleviating stress. People with a deep sense of faith or spirituality frequently find ways to seek comfort through a community of like-minded peers. That community can be very healing.

Do you think the stigma that has traditionally existed around mental health issues is still a factor in dissuading people from getting help?

AG: Unfortunately, yes. Consider that there is still a practice among most mental health specialists of providing a private waiting room for patients, who then exit through a separate door, so they never see the next patient. Personally, I think this reinforces the stigma we're trying to get away from.

But things are changing. Cedars-Sinai has been remarkable in taking positive steps to minimize the stigma and emphasize wellness among physicians.

As just one example, attending staff at the medical center receive reports from the clinical chief on a regular basis, and those reports highlight information about wellness and meditation and numbers you can call 24/7 to get help. It's proof that we're living in a different world.

As you look back and see how things have evolved, what stands out most for you about your own life and career?

AG: I think I'm proudest of the successes I've had helping patients feel better about themselves. I've also gotten a lot of pleasure from serving the community, whether with the Medical Board of California or as a member of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors with my loving partner, Gloria Lushing.

I come from a somewhat underprivileged background, and as I mastered my training and started to make myself financially secure, I always felt it was important to give back to others. My other great prides are my two children, Suzanne and Jay.

Speaking of children, your daughter, Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, is continuing the family tradition of involvement with Cedars-Sinai.

AG: That's right! She's a highly regarded obstetrician-gynecologist and a major advocate for integrative women's health.

How do you spend your time when you're not seeing patients?

AG: It's hard now with COVID-19. But, generally speaking, I enjoy exercise, eating well, going to the Music Center and to Disney Hall—Gloria and I were founders. At 84, I consider myself fortunate because I'm able to live a very fulfilling life.