Program Director’s Corner – April 2019
Being APD: My take on the role of Associate Program Director and how I interface with the Program Director and Coordinator
Mitali Talsania, MD
Associate Program Director, Endocrine and Metabolism
University of Oklahoma Health and Sciences Center
I am Mitali Talsania, Associate Fellowship Program Director (APD) for endocrinology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. I was appointed as APD in July 2017, a year after joining the faculty. I was overjoyed when offered this opportunity. With my new role, I now had the ability to truly help fellows and to be part of a process designed to improve their learning experience. I see my role as a connection between our fellows, the program coordinator (PC) and program director (PD).
When I first became APD, I was not too far off from my own fellowship training and was able to relate to their recent experiences. I developed into my role with the support of my PD and PC. I became an ear for difficulties fellows encountered no matter how small or big. I tried to help solve their problems. These varied from teaching them how to enter insulin drip orders, to providing directions on how to navigate hospitals; finding a solution to challenging clinical cases or providing guidance for research. My personal goal as APD was to make small but significant changes to improve their fellowship experience and enhance their learning. I wanted to empower fellows with information that I wish I knew when I was a trainee myself, while helping the PD who had delegated a few critical tasks to me. Specifically, using the APDEM curriculum as backbone, I developed a new, updated didactics curriculum for our program. I sent it to each of the faculty for topics they were teaching along with fellows for their input. I also incorporated online resources from Endocrine Society, ATA, AACE, ASBMR into the curriculum. This has helped me tremendously as I am able to guide my fellows better and improve my teaching skills as well.
Our program coordinator has been part of our program since I was an intern. She is the glue that keeps us all together. She has taught me with reminders, emails, useful information throughout my training, and then as faculty. She paves the way for execution of the fellowship match, schedules, meetings and countless other services to keep program running. I can always rely on her to be there for help at any given point with her experience about our fellowship program.
Throughout my career, I have worked very closely with my program director. I have been fortunate to have my PD as my mentor. She is an anchor that I can count on for any question or problem I encounter. She truly embraces an open door policy and I am able to reach out to her at almost any time. Slowly and steadily, she encouraged me to be more involved in GME meetings, APDEM meetings, walked me through criteria for fellowship candidate selections at our institution, our interview process, rank order list development and sponsored me to join and complete a one-year faculty academic leadership program, focused on mentorship and pathway to promotion. Most of our conversations occur informally over lunch in between clinics and other duties. We try to sit down together at least once a week.
With this article, I want to emphasize that working together with your program director and program coordinator, you can accomplish goals of improving the fellowship experience and enhance learning for fellows. Your program director and coordinator are your all-time support system. I will conclude this post with dedication it to my program director, Dr. Madona Azar, for her guidance, mentorship and endless efforts to improve our program.