The privilege of educating

The combination of graduation and spring seems appropriate, blooming flowers and all. We are some weeks off from our own graduating trainees finishing but the invitations to celebrate are starting to pop up just like the green shoots in our gardens. The residents’ graduation in early June promises to be just as heartfelt and fun as last year’s. That cycle of endings and beginnings never stops being a little thrilling, the clean slate of new beginnings, a fresh class of students. I suspect that the rhythm of that cycle is one perk many of us would miss away from here. There is in fact a lot to value about the work we get to do at Iowa. It can be easy to focus on the “have-to’s” and all the requirements and compliances and the countless notes and evaluations and recommendation letters. But I would ask you to pause every now and then and look up from that pile of paper and consider what an honor it is to secure the future of our profession by preparing students, residents, and fellows to face the challenges ahead. We all have a story to tell about an important mentor who taught us a particular technique or about the right way to frame a question to get at a truth. Every day we get the opportunity to be someone else’s story. It’s a privilege and worth remembering.

Those faculty members who will represent the department—with our gratitude—when they attend the medical student commencement on the evening of May 13 will have an opportunity to reflect on this. In the medical school we are proud to see one of our own, Dr. Amal Shibli-Rahhal, leading the years-long process of renewing the Carver College of Medicine’s accreditation. We want to give our medical students every opportunity to succeed and this is, in part, why we have celebrated the achievements of a handful every year for 40 years. Our M4 Student Awards are one of my favorite traditions because our records allow us to point to more than a few noteworthy winners in the past whom we now count as colleagues and outstanding educators themselves. Perhaps one or two of the remarkable students among this year’s winners may someday join our faculty roster as well.

Our hope is that training at Iowa will produce excellent clinicians, equipped with the rigor and curiosity necessary for untangling difficult diagnoses or unlocking new understandings through research. We also hope that their time at Iowa deepens their commitment to compassionate care and to leaping into a crisis where they know they can help alleviate suffering. The great news is that many arrive here from other institutions with those qualities well intact. This story about Dr. Gatra Gheriani, a first-year rheumatology fellow, and what she accomplished while on vacation with her family is good evidence of that. We also hope to produce excellent educators from our trainees, capable of passing on the skills and knowledge we entrust with them. One of the more recent innovations our residency program uses to do that is the Objective Structured Teaching Evaluations, an opportunity to simulate the kind of on-the-wards, in-the-moment education that can have meaningful impact on skills development. The OSTEs also offer 360-degree feedback to ensure that the program continually improves.

Of course none of these innovations or successes in our department would be possible without a truly dedicated and dynamic Education Leadership team, led by our Vice Chair for Education and Residency Program Director Dr. Manish Suneja. In this brief interview, Dr. Suneja is quick to share credit with the rest of his team, but it is his enthusiasm and commitment to every learner, particularly the residents, that inspire everyone around him to never be satisfied with good enough or surface-level effort. We are truly lucky to have him and appreciate the great lengths he goes to to make one of our most critical missions such a success. I also just learned that yesterday was his birthday. Happy birthday, Manish!

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