VCU Health nationally recognized for exemplary graduate medical education program

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The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation awarded VCU Medical Center with the second annual DeWitt C. Baldwin Jr. Award. The award recognizes institutions with accredited residency programs that are exemplary in fostering a respectful, supportive environment for medical education and the delivery of patient care.

“Receiving this award is a celebration of what we do really well, which is train physicians for the future not only in their science and clinical skills, but also in retaining their humanistic side, in working well with teams and in becoming professionals who are committed to serving their community,” said Stephanie Ann Call, M.D., interim associate dean for graduate medical education at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

Stephanie Ann Call, M.D.
Stephanie Ann Call, M.D.

Call will join Deborah Davis, CEO of VCU Hospitals and Clinics at VCU Health System, to receive the award on behalf of VCU and VCU Health at the 2017 ACGME Annual Education Conference in Orlando, Florida on March 10.

“VCU Health is changing and improving the care delivery model by design and the Baldwin award represents how we are designing health sciences education to match it,” Davis said.

Sixty sites were invited to submit applications for the award based on how they teach physicians in residency training about professionalism and how they foster a culture of respect, dignity and compassion. Six institutions were chosen for a two-day site visit, where they demonstrated best practices and provided interviews with residents, faculty and staff. Three institutions were selected for the award.

The award emphasizes the joint responsibility of health system and graduate medical education leadership for delivering high-quality health care while also supporting the personal and professional development of learners and faculty.

“Receiving the Baldwin award is more than a School of Medicine accomplishment,” said Peter Buckley, M.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine. “We share this designation with our colleagues at VCU Health, who help us foster an open and collaborative learning environment for our residents.”

During the site visit in late January, VCU representatives shared the interdisciplinary and interdepartmental values that are at the core of the academic medical center’s culture.  

University and health system representatives also emphasized VCU’s commitment to wellness and to the promotion of a humanistic approach to training physicians. A Journal of the American Medical Association study published in December 2015 found that 29 percent of residents suffer from significant symptoms of depression and those symptoms escalate within a year of starting training.

“We do a lot to train physicians in self-care and offer many programs in wellness for our trainees at VCU,” Call said. “We are extremely proactive in guarding against physician burnout. We focus on wellness, resilience and having a good work-life balance.”

In the past year, VCU Medical Center has opened six Watson Rooms, designated quiet spaces where staff can go to decompress in their immediate work environment. The rooms have a massage chair, soothing music and warm colors on the walls. Studies have shown the rooms are effective in increasing compassion and decreasing burnout in health care staff. 

Another wellness initiative at VCU is the digital stories project that internal medicine residents create during their training program. Residents work with Call and colleagues in the Department of Internal Medicine to create the digital stories, which are three-minute video narratives that describe a personal moment of change they experienced during their residency. The residents write scripts, record audio, find images and video and use to create the clips. The project is an innovative method of teaching reflection to medical learners.

“We carve out space and time for the residents to reflect on what they are going through,” Call said.

During the site visit, VCU representatives highlighted many other examples of how VCU exceeds expectations in the training of medical residents, such as the Walk the Walk orientation program that was created in 2009 to train new residents in interdisciplinary teams, the interdepartmental structured patient hand-off process that is practiced at every unit of the hospital and the interdisciplinary bedside rounding that is practiced at many units at VCU Medical Center.

“We don’t do things in silos,” Call said. “We do them across disciplines, which creates a fantastic team-oriented culture that is centered on patient safety and transparency.”