SGIM Forum

Meet the 2020 SGIM Clinician-Educator Award Recipients! 

07-30-2020 13:56

From the Society: Part III

Meet the 2020 SGIM Clinician-Educator Award Recipients!

Dr. Chisty (achisty@pennstatehealth.psu.edu) is an associate professor at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State College of Medicine and a member of the SGIM Education Committee. Dr. Spagnoletti (spagcl@upmc.edu) is a professor at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of the Academic Clinician-Educator Scholars (ACES) Fellowship in General Internal Medicine and the Master’s and Certificate Programs in Medical Education, and chair of the SGIM Education Committee. Dr. Zipkin (Daniella.zipkin@duke.edu) is an associate professor at Duke University School of Medicine, associate program director for ambulatory care in the internal medicine residency program, vice chief of education in the division of general internal medicine, and a member of the SGIM Education Committee.

The Awards Subcommittee of the Education Committee is pleased to highlight this past years’ SGIM Education Award Winners! Here we share Q & A with each winner during which we explored the inspirations, triumphs, and challenges that contributed to their impressive achievements.

Paul Haidet, MD, MPH—Career Achievement Award for Medical Education

What inspired you to pursue a career in medical education?

One of my core beliefs is that great educators create an experience through which the students transform. This is a colossal task! No longer does the educator “tell” the learner the content, but he/she needs to create the conditions that allow the highest proportion of learners to discover something that will evolve their abilities. In 1967, Jimi Hendrix’s debut album, Are You Experienced, had the following quote: “Be forewarned. Most experiences make you a bit older. This one makes you wider.” We are trying to create an education experience that doesn’t make you older but makes you wider – that is the coolest thing ever and keeps me in the game!

To date, what is a career accomplishment that you are most proud of?

For me, I think less in terms of accomplishments and more in terms of engagement. Over the last 15 years, I have been most engaged with the arts in medicine. From my work in jazz and medicine, I believe that physicians can learn from jazz musicians and that improvisation is the “seventh competency.” Fostering things like adaptive expertise are all about educating people to be good improvisers. I am constantly thinking about how to do this with doctors.

Can you describe one of your biggest professional challenges and how you approached it?

Even though I was asked to lead two organizations, the Academy of Communication in Health Care (ACH) and the Society of Directors of Research in Medical Education (SDRME), leadership is not usually in my plans nor is it something that I would naturally seek out. Instead, what interests me in my daily work is the myriad of ways that leadership can go down. What we usually promote as ideal leadership qualities in medicine are sometime characteristics I don’t identify with. Instead of hierarchical and top-down leadership qualities, I am more interested in features of distributive leadership. Because of my style, traditional leadership roles feel like a constant challenge for me.

What advice would you give to a junior clinician educator who is looking to pursue a similar career?

In retrospect, the most important thing I learned in fellowship was not the content but rather how to engage in scholarly activity, collaborate with others in collecting data about a question, and organize my thoughts. That was super important training. My biggest advice to junior clinician educators is to find a mentor, do a fellowship if you can, and, in your first job, find the time to think in a scholarly way with a mentor about what you are doing, whether it is clinical practice, education, or both. If you approach your professional development in a scholarly manner, you will be constructing experiences that maximize the chances that you are discovering or creating something new and valuable. You will have evolved.

Rachel Bonnema, MD, MS—Mid-Career Medical Education Mentorship Award

What inspired you to pursue a career in medical education?

Medical education wasn’t on my radar as a student but during my residency at Pitt I had such admiration for my core educator faculty that I decided to pattern my career pathway off those folks. I didn’t realize at the time the breadth of opportunity that exists for clinician educators (CEs)! As a mentor, I help my trainees realize that a CE career isn’t just one pathway—we can focus on teaching, education research, curriculum development, and/or administration, and can work with various levels of learners. For those interested in becoming CEs, I help them delineate which path complements them the most.

To date, what is a career accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I’m proud that I challenge myself to try new things, develop new skills, and build new programs. For me, that has required me to embrace change. Change furthers your career and expands your opportunities. Change has allowed me to work with a wide range of learners, to develop expertise on a variety of topics, and to develop strong professional connections.

Can you describe one of your biggest professional challenges and how you approached it?

I like routine and knowing the “right” thing to do, so I’ve had to work hard to challenge myself to expand my boundaries and to embrace change. For instance, a couple years ago I was feeling stifled in my career and had to reflect on my professional goals and motivations. I had to work my way to a solution, by recreating what got me into medical education: by observing leaders who I admire, identifying their traits, and figuring out how I could enhance those in myself. In particular, I observed that many leaders evolve their interests over time, often by reaching beyond their own institutions, and sometimes by changing jobs in order to support this evolution. They also approach fear of change head on and work through adversity. I realized that I needed to be audacious in order to meet my professional goals. Now, I am more effective with helping mentees through their own challenges, having struggled through change in my own career.

What advice would you give to a junior clinician educator (or researcher) who is looking to pursue a similar career?

Say “yes!” The concept of “saying no” is widely touted in the mentoring world and it’s certainly the right thing to do sometimes. But some of the richest, albeit unexpected, experiences I’ve had were because I said yes. When someone presents me with an opportunity, I ask myself, “Can I learn something valuable from this person?” and “Is this opportunity likely to expand a skill set that I desire?” I encourage my own mentees to pause before saying no, even when an opportunity feels like a stretch. I remind them that with that stretch often comes growth. I try to find out what is keeping them from saying yes and help them figure out if those barriers can be overcome. As a result, sometimes their initial “no” becomes an obvious “yes!”

Kathleen Hanley, MD—Scholarship in Medical Education Award

What inspired you to pursue a career in medical education?

I was lucky enough to have inspirational teachers, particularly in medical school and residency. Teaching seemed natural – it never occurred to me to NOT incorporate some teaching when I went through medical school. Ultimately for me, it came down to taking care of patients. I hope that my teaching is always in the service of patient care. I learned from one of my mentors (and SGIM past President), Mack Lipkin, that as a teacher you can have a multiplicative effect on others!

Building scholarship into your career is about being a part of a group. You start asking interesting questions, talk to people you work with, and the next thing you know it becomes a study. Staying accountable to my colleagues keeps projects moving forward.

To date, what is a career accomplishment that you are most proud of?

I am lucky to have been taking care of patients at the same place for 25 years. Sometimes, I care for extended families. That they bring their families to me, and put their trust in me, is incredibly gratifying. I feel I’ve helped people in really meaningful ways – to live the way they want to live, die the way they want to die.

One patient in particular that I met over 20 years ago was grappling with opioid and alcohol use disorders. She’d had multiple overdoses. Her other chronic conditions were out of control. She inspired me to start prescribing buprenorphine. She wanted me to treat her, so we made a deal: if she would take her medication, I would get my buprenorphine waiver. Now, her BP is controlled, she doesn’t miss appointments, and she’s only had one drug-related admission in 5 years. I feel like she wouldn’t be alive if we weren’t working together on this problem.

I’m proud to have built experiences for medical students and residents where they could hear patient stories and see this type of transformation. I want them to see that the struggle with substance abuse is not fruitless—patients can get better!

Can you describe one of your biggest professional challenges and how you approached it?

I like a lot of things! Patient care, teaching, research, other projects… Fitting things in and still being there for my patients is challenging. There is not enough time in the day to do all the things I want to do. It’s a true clinician-educator challenge, we have a hybrid job! I’m always going to be feeling like I’m pulled in many directions since things don’t fit neatly into a 9-to-5 workday.

What advice would you give to a junior clinician educator who is looking to pursue a similar career?

Take advantage of teaching and research opportunities that are presented to you. At the beginning of your career, it’s good to say yes! Don’t worry about doing too much—try out different things and figure out what you like.

Find your people—find a group of collaborators and colleagues to work with who care about the same things that you do. Reach out to the people you admire and who are doing the work you want to do. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation!


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