The Awards Subcommittee of the Education Committee is pleased to highlight SGIM’s 2023 Education Award Winners! Here we share Q&A exploring their passion, lessons learned, and success.

Career Achievement Award for Medical Education: Sue Hingle, MD

What inspired you to pursue a career in medical education?

Residency is when I really saw how fun it was to help turn the lightbulbs on in people, and to work with them on critical thinking. I was all set to do a Robert Woods Johnson Clinical Scholars program at the University of Chicago, but when I was chief resident, I got totally burned out. I ran 180 degrees in the opposite direction: I passed up that fellowship and went into private practice. About a month in, I realized the mistake I had made, and I decided to pursue academic medicine. When I first started, I was an associate program director and that was what I thought I would do—resident education. A couple years later, they needed someone to lead the preclinical doctoring curriculum and my department chair asked if I would do it. I started in this position and very quickly found out I love working with students! One of my mentors at the time was the Internal Medicine clerkship director, and she asked me to be the inaugural associate clerkship director, so that I could decide if that was what I really wanted to do. She then stepped away and I became the clerkship director. I did that for 10–15 years, and then one of my mentees, a phenomenal educator, had her opportunity to shine. At that point, I started to dig into faculty development, which is how I ended up in my current role in professional development across the organization, not only for our physicians but for our staff as well.

There are lots of examples of people who remain in the job too long, and the job doesn’t thrive because there’s no new energy and excitement. There are lots of people who go into medical education and don’t get those opportunities, and then they stagnate. Lack of opportunities is a piece of burnout that a lot of people don’t talk about.

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

You need to be open to opportunities as they come your way. A lot of people tell you define your niche, but I have found the opposite to be true. In medicine we are very goal-oriented—in our reviews, we are asked “What are your three-year goals? Five-year goals?” It’s good to have goals, but not have them be so specific that you close yourself off to opportunities as they arise.

I didn’t think society leadership would be part of my career goals. I was busy being a doctor, educator, and mom when the opportunity to run for the governor of the American College of Physicians (ACP) Illinois chapter came up. I approached my department chair and said, “This is a great opportunity, but the timing isn’t good.” He looked at me and said, “I will respect whatever you decide, but I think this will be good for you.” So I did it, and that led to huge opportunities. If I had stuck with “This is my path, this is my lane,” I would have missed out on so much because of that. There is a commercial on TV now that says, “Open your eyes—the opportunities are all around you.” And when that comes on, I think, “That’s totally true! The opportunities are all around you if you take advantage of them.”

Another piece of advice from my clinical skills teacher in second year of medical school—whenever you go into a room with a patient, look at their shoes. It helps you ground yourself and be present. It’s a visual way of understanding your patient as a person, letting the empathy flow. This probably applies outside of the patient room as well to our learners and to our colleagues. If you train yourself, it becomes part of what you do regularly—you put yourself in other people’s shoes.

What is something you are proud of in your career?

I have been able to help others feel a sense of belonging, and by doing that, to help them to learn and grow and thrive. Because of this, I have had an impact on the present and the future of medicine.

I do this by sharing of myself, showing my vulnerabilities. I show that I am human, and this allows them to be human too. I truly feel that personal wellness should be the highest priority of medicine, of education, really of just about anything, and I think you get to all of your other goals if you make that your primary goal. If we have learners who are well and healthy, they are going to be better learners, educators, and physicians. We only get there when we create environments that have that as the focus. Part of that is recognizing that we’re human and sharing that.

Mid-Career Medical Education Mentorship Award: Alia Chisty, MD

What is a career accomplishment that you are most proud of?

The first thing that came to mind was becoming a program director. I went into medicine wanting to do more healthcare advocacy and policy work. I did not consider a career in medical education until my mentors encouraged me. I had never thought about education as advocacy, but in becoming an educator I could advocate for our learners in a different way to the healthcare system, at the national level, and directly with patients. I felt lucky when I became a program director that I could stand up for residents in a way that I could not imagine.

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

I wish I could have told the younger me to critically think about what your values are, your personal and professional interests, and the skills you can contribute. It’s important that these all align with who you want to be as a person, and that these are in line with the value systems of yourself, your team, and your institution—otherwise it is hard to work in that space. It is so important to be authentic to yourself and find your mission, and to surround yourself with people who will encourage you in that mission. A lot of us in medicine experience imposter phenomenon; you have to believe in yourself, but you also need to surround yourself with people who encourage you and see your potential even when you don’t see it.

Do you have any other wisdom to share?

I have really spent a lot of time the last couple of years thinking about wellness means—what it means for me and what it means for all of us. How do we still love the work we do and lean into that without feeling that it’s consuming everything? It is something I’m working on myself. I think wellness is making sure you find that not only does your work align with what you want to do and who you want to be, but also making sure it aligns with your other priorities. We need to make sure that we don’t work at the expense of ourselves, but rather fill ourselves up and bring ourselves wholly to ourselves, our homes, and our relationships. I want to help learners reframe how work and life coexist and to find the tools they need to look deliberately at what this means for them. I encourage everyone in this career to consider how to lean into this work—which is a true honor and privilege that patients and their loved ones entrust us during the most difficult times of their lives—while finding space for rest. I worry that the more we don’t lean in, the less meaning we will find.

Scholarship in Medical Education Award Winner: Somnath Mookherjee, MD

How did your career path lead you to pursuing scholarship in medical education?

This is a great question—but I’m not really sure what the answer is. For my whole education and professional career, I’ve kind of done whatever feels like the right thing to do next, and it has seemed to work out. I don’t think I’ve ever had a five-year plan or a ten-year plan. After residency I was a hospitalist for a year, and I wanted to be an “academic hospitalist.” But I didn’t really know how to do a project or even how to get started doing a project. The following year I joined an Academic Hospital Medicine Fellowship—that was a really formative year. I set out planning to do work in rapid response systems and early detection of clinical deterioration but ended up focusing on physical exam education and other aspects of medical education. I think the key to finding something that was authentic, and fulfilling was having the time to explore and having many supportive mentors. You may set out thinking you are going to do one thing, but with enough freedom and support, you may find that your interests lie somewhere else. That year was important because it gave me the skills I needed to start doing projects and scholarly work.

How do you balance your schedule so that you have time for scholarly work and clinical work?

I don’t actually have time dedicated to scholarly work—all of my non-clinical time is for educational roles. I’ve been fortunate in that these roles have completely synergized with my academic interests and naturally led to some scholarly work.

What is a professional accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?

I had an idea around 2014 to create a booklet of tips on teaching to use in our faculty development program. I discussed this with one of my mentors, Tom Gallagher, who encouraged me to think about how I could increase the effectiveness and impact of this project. So I tried to think a little bigger and set out to create a handbook of concise, actionable, and easily accessible guidance on clinical teaching, I recruited Ellen Cosgrove to co-edit the book with me, and recruited dozens of expert clinical teachers to write the chapters. In 2016 we published the Handbook of Clinical Teaching. I think the book has been useful to a lot of people, but for me personally, holding the published book was a moment of pride and realization that we had done something tangible to try to make the world a better place.

Issue

Topic

Annual Meeting, Medical Education, SGIM

Author Descriptions

Dr. Kiefer (meghanm@uw.edu) is an associate professor at University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Singhal (raman.singhal@mountsinai.org) is an assistant professor at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. Dr. Zucker (shana.zucker@jhsmiami.org) is a resident at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital. Dr. Farkas (ahfarkas@mcw.edu) is an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

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