Fellowship coordinators are critical not just to our clinical care mission, but also our education mission. Amy Gingerich is the administrative services coordinator for the Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship. When Gingerich started in the role eight years ago she was “the heart and soul” of the program, Division Director Joseph Zabner, MD, PhD, said. “But she has evolved to be the brains, too.” He likens her ability to manage dozens of weekly schedules and especially the recruitment process to that of an orchestra director, conducting an “exceptional team effort.”
Right out of high school, Gingerich began showing a commitment to education and to University of Iowa Health Care. Gingerich worked as a live-in nanny to a fellow in anesthesiology while taking classes at Kirkwood Community College. While next attending the University of Iowa to work on her degree in elementary education, she had an emphasis in English Language Arts. “The reading part drew me in, focused mostly on literacy.” Gingerich also got a part-time job with Internal Medicine in the mail room. She remembers Zabner was a pulmonary fellow at the time.
Fresh from her degree, Gingerich returned to a teaching job in her native West Liberty running an enrichment reading group for first and second graders. But it was not long before budget cuts eliminated her position and Gingerich was faced with a choice. She went into business for herself, running an in-home daycare. She was still able to work with kids, and she was able to spend quality time raising her own two children in those critical early years.
After about seven or eight years and her children moved into grade school, Gingerich began looking to get back into teaching. She taught as a substitute in a number of different communities in the area. She learned to spot the students who want to “try you” as the substitute, but after having difficulty finding something permanent, she remembered Internal Medicine. A temporary administrative position was open in the pulmonary division with the promise of moving to a full-time role. Gingerich said that the Human Resources Director at the time told her, “Pulmonary has some of the greatest doctors you could work with.” Gingerich said, “I never forgot that. I think she was right.”
Right away, Gingerich started to work with Jeff Wilson, MD, the pulmonary fellowship director. She helped him track the fellows’ schedules as they moved through required rotations and research projects. “Even temping, I loved coming to work every day,” Gingerich said. “It’s the people that have kept me here.” After less than a year, she transitioned into full-time.
“That was about eight years ago,” Gingerich said. The job, she explained, is constantly evolving. A major component, in addition to helping 12 fellows rotate through the three-year program, remains recruitment season. For a couple months every fall, dozens and dozens of applications get narrowed down to about 30 on-site interviews. There is travel, accommodations, and the interviews themselves, all for Gingerich to align with the schedules of a very busy recruitment committee. She and Wilson are considering some revisions to the interview process for next year with fewer faculty participating but achieving a greater connection with candidates through longer conversations. Gingerich says that she is currently researching best practices at other programs both here at Iowa and other insttitutions.
Day to day, she also provides support to current faculty, many of whom were once fellows. “Organization,” she said, “is the big key. Time management.” She tries to help the current fellows anticipate what is coming next to avoid conflicts and delays. Gingerich laughed at the suggestion that her time with elementary school students and the daycare may have been preparation for this role, but quickly defended the fellows and the position they are placed in. “They have so many competing priorities, all the time.”
The fellows themselves, both current and former, feel the same loyalty in return. Elizabeth Batchelor, MD, third-year fellow called Gingerich “an advocate” and said that “she puts a lot of effort into improving our training experience.” Another fellow mentioned his nervousness over moving and starting here with all the paperwork involved but Gingerich made “the transition super easy.” That attention to detail and organization that Gingerich possesess was mentioned by many. “She ensures we’re able to continue practicing by being on top of our compliance.” Wilson, the fellowship program director, agreed, calling himself “lucky to have her with me running the program.” She is, he said, “everything you look for in a program coordinator.”
Outside of “conducting the orchestra,” Gingerich keeps busy raising her two now-teenagers. “They’re pretty active in sports.” Her oldest is in both volleyball and soccer, and the younger is in football, baseball, and tennis. “It slows down in the winter,” she said with a smile. But she fills that time with home repair, jigsaw puzzles, and caring for an aging goldendoodle. She has plans to travel to Colorado soon.