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Rediscovering Meaning in Medicine: Reflecting on the 2019 ACGME Annual Conference

April 24, 2019

This year’s ACGME Annual Education Conference featured several hundred presentations, sessions and networking opportunities for more than 4,000 educators and learners in the graduate medical education community. The NBOME was delighted to participate as a key sponsor again this year, hosting an exhibit booth that welcomed hundreds of visitors. In addition, NBOME hosted a pre-conference workshop and panel discussion entitled “Using COMLEX-USA in Graduate Medical Education”, and members of the NBOME team took part in numerous meetings and sessions including those hosted by the Assembly of Osteopathic Graduate Medical Educators and numerous ACGME Residency Review committees.

The overarching theme of the conference, Rediscovering Meaning in Medicine, was reflective and asked those in attendance to take a deeper dive into the joys and challenges in training the nation’s physician workforce ─ looking at doctors as people, giving care and caring, hope and healing to themselves, each other and their patients.

As a non-physician, who has had the pleasure to work with many talented and inspiring physicians and physician leaders (and yes, sometimes depleted) in academic, clinical practice and assessment settings I found it enlightening. Having witnessed both physician burnout and dis-wellness , the words, “Physician, heal thyself,” resonate. As in an airplane when instructed to place the mask over your face before assisting others, the concept that physician educators need to take care of themselves is clear. The importance of the teaching and learning environment where new physicians enter and learn how to be doctors was brought forth in numerous ways throughout the course of the conference. The words of Vivek Murthy, MD, U.S. Surgeon General, were heart-felt as he relayed his experience with feeling a fear of failure, and transforming that fear to courage.

Having the opportunity to work with osteopathic medical leaders, I was struck by the opportunities for improving the clinical learning environment for trainees and their mentors and strengths I’ve seen in the osteopathic medical profession. I have been to hundreds of meetings with doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) and in virtually every meeting, these doctors greet each other warmly, often hugging one another. Their warmth and expression conveys meaning to one another – you are not alone, you matter to me, we are on the same team.

As the single accreditation system for graduate medical education comes to fruition in the next year and matures, the integration of newly minted DOs entering the larger house of medicine may bring a greater sense of human-ness and warmth to all physician learners, teachers and members of the inter-professional care team, and to the patients they serve. With osteopathic medical students now accounting for one in four medical students and later joining a unified system for residency training, can this expression of caring and support promote courage and help create the kind of clinical learning environment that encompasses us all?



Contributed by Melissa Turner, MS  |  Associate Vice President for Strategy & Quality Initiatives  |  NBOME