Celebrating our trainee-educators’ excellence

In the past seven or eight months, a lot of small, everyday interactions have been sacrificed or gone through dramatic changes. For one of the Chief Residents of Internal Medicine at UnityPoint Health, Iaswarya Ganapathiraju, DO, that meant she was not able to see her medical students in-person for four months during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The students heard me say this so many times, but I almost cried with joy when I had my students back because it’s so lonely without [them] here,” Ganapathiraju said. She was speaking on Wednesday on a panel as part of the second annual Celebration of Resident and Fellow Teaching Excellence Panel, sponsored by the Clinical Teaching Collaborative (CTC) and the UI’s Office of Graduate Medical Education (GME).

UI’s Internal Medicine PGY-2 resident Jason Winward, MD, joined Ganapathiraju on the virtual panel discussing their teaching philosophies and methods. Neurology PGY-4 resident Lama Abdel Wahed, MD, was the third featured panelist.

When asked about his teaching philosophy, Winward said he tries to find a good balance between challenging and comforting his students. While he pushes his students to expand their medical knowledge, he also wants to create a safe and healthy learning environment.

“It’s so important for us to remember what it was like to be a medical student,” Winward said. “I felt best when I was learning as a part of a team and felt valued.”

During her teaching service in July, Ganapathiraju made sure to set aside time for some kind of lesson every time she rounded. “I tried to do smaller caliber teaching as well,” she said. “I didn’t focus on just doing a long practice chalk-talk but made smaller lessons.” Even during a busy day, Ganapathiraju would print out small “EKG challenges.” Students then could examine the EKG when they had a chance and hold a two-minute discussion about the EKG.

In the midst of a pandemic, this year’s panel discussion focused mostly on the struggles Ganapathiraju, Winward, and Wahed navigated during their time as clinical teachers.

“Teaching opportunities for us, from a clinical setting, were very different,” Winward said. “I definitely feel like face-to-face time is irreplaceable. I think that’s been the biggest struggle through COVID.”

All three of the panelists said there was a small learning curve for both students and teachers, when they transitioned from virtual to clinicals.

“I’m not going to say that they are set back in anyway. They just haven’t had the clinical experience we’re used to them having,” Ganapathiraju said. “Luckily I think our students and our residents that have come to our program have been very quick to catch up and be immersed in clinical medicine again.”


Wednesday’s panel featuring the three residents was one of two that day. Another immediately after faculty leaders in GME at Iowa focused specifically on how bedside teaching has had to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions. In addition to these panels, UI Health Care’s more than 820 residents and fellows each received a gift bag as a token of appreciation from GME and the CTC.

In addition, the GME office collected feedback from medical students praising resident and fellow physician-educators. The following remarks cited members of Internal Medicine’s training programs.

Rachel was the best resident ever! Besides the time that she took out of her schedule to teach and get to know me, the thing that I most appreciated about working with her was watching how she interacted with patients. She took time to thoroughly explain to patients what was happening in their care and what next steps were. She always sought to include the patient in decision making. Overall an excellent physician with a very bright future ahead of her!

Dr. Rachel Genova, from Bethany Muyskens, M4, CCOM

Austin went out of his way to make sure I felt like I was part of the team, taking on enough responsibility, and constantly learning while he was my fellow on the Hematology consult service.

Dr. Austin Greco, from Anonymous, M4, CCOM

Dr. Meade did a fantastic job of teaching the medical students daily during my 2-week hepatology consult service. He taught us the important differences between the definition of acute liver failure versus acute-on-chronic liver failure, terminologies that might seem intuitive but is too commonly misused, and how that difference leads to vastly different management steps. He also took the time to bring us to the very cool simulation room and taught us how to use the scope, which was awesome!

Dr. Charles Meade, from Anonymous, M4, CCOM

Sean was in his first two weeks of working as a senior resident and he was running our team like an absolute professional. We had a very sick group of patients and we were quite busy, but he always took time out to teach me and the interns about fundamental concepts in internal medicine. His laidback style and willingness to teach fostered a great learning environment and confirmed my interest in internal medicine.

Dr. Sean Pickthorn, from Anonymous. CCOM

Dr. Zetumer was an inspiration to me above and beyond the standard at UIHC. He dedicated time to teaching in addition to his clinical duties, and did so effectively, giving me tools I will continue to utilize after graduation. He also demonstrated on numerous occasions a dedication to ensuring superior patient care, even advocating for patients in the face of resistance from other care team members.

Dr. Sam Zetumer, from Anonymous, CCOM

In a letter to each of these trainees, Marygrace Elson, MD, MME, and Gerald Wickham, MD, EdD, Chair and Vice-Chair respectively of the CTC, said, “We are delighted to honor and recognize your contributions to learning in medicine. Thank you for your continued dedication to excellence.”

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