Resilience and excellence

Here it is, my first “Views from the Chair,” a forum that just like you I have appreciated for its reliable candor, as much as its information, these last six years. I had hoped for a quieter, less urgent tone in this transition as its new author, but it seems the omicron variant had other plans. Maybe a good reminder that we do not choose the times, but the times choose us. So let me begin by thanking each of you for the extraordinary lengths you continually travel to take care of our patients as well as each other. I can remember hearing “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” almost two years ago when COVID-19 first appeared in Iowa. I would bet that very few of us thought the run would be this long nor that our hardest miles would be this late in the race. But all of us have continued to run and found reserves and renewals of the strength and motivation to do what you do. What no one else in the state can do. This new role affords me certain forest- and tree-level perspectives and I have to say that I am in awe of what you all have achieved, and always with so much compassion. Thank you.

It is not just me or the rest of the University of Iowa Health Care leadership who sees what Internal Medicine can do. Our trainees see the examples our faculty members set and that helps them understand what is possible and what is needed. This pushes them to excel. We provide residents experiences that few other programs in the country can provide, such as the R38-funded StARR program, in which a second-year resident “pauses” some of their clinical training and spends a year in focused, mentored research. This recent profile of Dr. Jon Day is a good example of our faculty’s ability to help guide the right candidate to the right experience.

The evidence for trainee excellence could begin and end at our residents and Chief Residents, but it goes so much farther. From a medical student’s first days with us, they know their ideas are valued and deserve our support, for example, when it comes to issues around wellness and resilience. Drs. Lauris Kaldjian and Patrick Barlow stepped in to offer guidance and expertise to now-4th-year medical student Annee Rempel. Like any good researcher, she started with a good, fundamental question: can physicians take better care of patients if they take care of themselves? As the medical school continues to offer curriculum and evaluation that prioritizes lessons in wellness, we can look to them to inform us how we can better prevent burnout.

We can see trainees’ modeling excellence and compassion in our fellowship programs locally, nationally, and globally. Last month, first-year cardiology fellow Dr. Suvasini Lakshmanan won a prestigious award that will pair her with an Italian cardiologist as the two explore novel treatments for atherosclerosis. Dr. Arooj Khan, a second-year cardiology fellow, credits the mentorship of Dr. Mahi Ashwath for her recent selection to serve on the leadership of the ACC’s Women in Cardiology section. Given that the percentage of female adult cardiologists in the US is not more than 15%, much work remains to be done there, and it is good to see the next generation pick up the torch. Second-year rheumatology fellow Dr. Matthew Mandell was recently cited by the UI Mobile Clinic for his work staffing this essential community service last semester, the only clinician from Internal Medicine to receive commendation. The Spring 2022 schedule is open and there are many slots among its 34 clinics available. Please consider volunteering for this worthy organization.

Finally, I want to use this space to thank you for the many kind congratulations and words of support as I find my footing in this new role as Chair. What I have come to understand is that communication from this position will remain as essential as it ever has been, if not more so in the coming months, whether it is navigating the pandemic or ensuring our next permanent Chair ticks all the qualification boxes we find critical. But true communication is a two-way channel, and I encourage you to reach out to me or your division leadership as often as possible. We have also created a Feedback Form that you can use anytime. Your anonymous or signed submission through that form will generate an instant message that will be seen and reviewed by us in departmental leadership. Please hold up your end of the communication bargain. Do not hesitate to let us know how things are going.

About Isabella Grumbach, MD, PhD

Isabella Grumbach, MD, PhD; Interim Chair and DEO, Department of Internal Medicine; Kate Daum Endowed Professor; Professor of Medicine – Cardiovascular Medicine; Professor of Radiation Oncology

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