Dear Colleagues and Friends,
As the newly minted president of APDEM, I would like to welcome our members and provide some thoughts for the new academic year on fulfilling our role as program directors and associate PDs. We have now on-boarded our new fellows, turning now to the next class to recruit, and juggling our myriad of deadlines for ACGME and program evaluations. And that is in addition to our usual faculty expectations of clinic, teaching, research, and administration. And oh yes, we also have our own personal lives in the background.
We have all learned to adapt and change, especially over the last two years, and we feel more comfortable with our workflows and backup plans as we handle surges, and surges upon surges, staff shortages, supply shortages, variant strains, amidst all the other turmoil of this world.
As PDs, we try to be the role models for our fellows and faculty, maintaining our “aequanimitas.” We aim to live up to the expectations laid out by the ACGME requirements that “the program director model outstanding professionalism, high quality patient care, educational excellence, and a scholarly approach to work…”
That is quite a tall order. I know that I feel satisfied if by the end of the day I answered most of my patient emails, addressed the super urgent Outlook emails, closed my patient encounters, and met the deadlines that were due yesterday. Was I a role model that day? Was I compassionate? I do not usually feel that way. But I think it is our trainees who remind us daily for what we should be striving. Without them, I believe we would miss out on these key aspects of a physician. I will give one example. I was supervising the teaching endocrine clinic one morning and went back into the exam room with the fellow, resident, and medical student in tow. The new patient was struggling with her diabetes and had social and personal challenges. I really wanted to be brief as I knew other patients were waiting, and we were backed up. But I looked behind me, saw the eager, compassionate faces of my trainees, and I just took a seat next to the patient, held her hand, and listened to her concerns. I did not look at the clock and just focused on the patient and worked on building her trust, to show her that we were a team and would help guide her on her journey to controlling her diabetes. Yes, there were tears –the patient, not mine nor the trainees. But she felt reassured and cared for. Later in the day, the medical student wrote to me : “You have already done so much for my education, and I am so grateful for the support, and incredibly fortunate I was able to work with you. I hope to work with you again in the future as well and continue to learn/grow from you!” So yes-I got behind with my patients, but at least for that moment, I did feel like a role model. And who knows, perhaps inspired another student to pursue endocrinology.
Another point to encourage you all is to take time for wellness. I know we hear all about it, and it is even a milestone now for our trainees. However, we should not forget to care for ourselves if we wish to have strength to support our trainees. We need to watch over our care and take advantage of the wellness resources that our institutions offer. Even for 5 minutes a day, as the day winds down, try to sit, reflect, and do perhaps some guided meditations.
Finally, a way to find fulfillment is to contribute and be part of a greater whole. Giving is the main part of what we do in our field, giving to our trainees, supporting our faculty, encouraging our staff, and helping our patients. I have to say that my work in APDEM over the last several years has given me even more purpose, encourages me to grow and help, and brings meaning to the endless deadlines and paperwork for fellowship. I feel part of a larger community and not alone. My fellow council members and committee members have become my APDEM friends. And I believe that is what you all are looking for as well as we review your feedback on the surveys and from our discussions at the APDEM booth at ENDO. We are social creatures (even for introverts like myself) and want to share our mutual experiences and concerns and find ways to help each other.
So thank you all for opening up, devoting time to join our committees, and supporting APDEM. We have a lot of activities and initiatives planned for this year to engage all members and provide the resources you need for optimizing your programs and wellbeing. We look forward to working with you, supporting you, and becoming a closer knit PD community.
Wishing you all a productive, healthy, and safe year. And please reach out anytime to me or anyone on council with suggestions, concerns, or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Odelia B. Cooper, MD
Program Director, Cedars-Sinai
Los Angeles, CA