ACLGIM Leadership Forum

Leading During Transition: Fellowship Program Director

Leading a GIM Division and Fellowship in the Post-pandemic World

Dr. Laiteerapong (, GIM research fellowship director and PITCH (Primary care Investigators Training in Chronic disease and Health disparities) Fellowship Director at University of Chicago. Dr. Burnet (, University of Chicago General Internal Medicine Chief and GIM research fellowship co-director.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change how the healthcare system and doctors practice medicine. The pandemic has driven the telehealth transformation, unearthed (or revealed) the politicization and mistrust of science, and deepened our understanding of systemic healthcare inequities and structural racism in the healthcare system. Similarly, at academic medical centers, how we lead needs to change because of the COVID-19 pandemic. From our point of view, leading a GIM Division and Fellowship, there have been several major lessons.

One major lesson is that strong mentorship can still be provided using virtual meetings. But we have found that the frequency of meetings needs to be increased and the meetings themselves can be shorter. Also, a major plus of using virtual meetings is that mentorship can effectively happen before new fellows arrive.

A second major lesson is that recruitment is more equitable in the virtual world. It is very expensive to travel to interviews in terms of time and money, which can decrease the diversity of the candidate pool. We plan to continue conducting primarily virtual interviews to remove some of these social inequities. The same rationale applies to invited speaking, which is now easier than ever.

The last major lesson we’ll share is that the principles of outstanding leadership are even more important in these highly stressful times. For example, public recognition of individual faculty accomplishments has been especially important this past year. Acknowledgement and open discussion of challenges is key. Emphasizing the clinical, educational, research, and advocacy missions has helped motivate and sustain our faculty.

As a result of these changes in leadership, we have seen our Division continue to thrive and hope that these lessons will resonate.


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