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my babies are coming

Well, you and I both know they aren't really babies, but they will feel like my children for the next three years--and probably for the rest of my life. Our first pediatric residents arrive on Monday, June 18.


They will spend two weeks getting oriented and acclimated to their new "home" and will start working as physicians on July 1 or 2. Today I received their blackberry numbers and their photos. They all have institutional email addresses. Most of them probably don't know this information yet. I am so excited I can barely contain myself.

I see this time as a "coming of age" of our pediatric program.

I have been thinking about this day since I arrived at Carilion 5 years ago, and we have been actively planning (with leadership from the Pediatric program director, Dr. Colleen Kraft) for the past three. We have goals and objectives, reading materials, individualized learning plans and other items ready for them. The faculty are waiting (im)patiently like runners waiting for the signal to start. We are excited. We are nervous. We are enthusiastic. We are hopeful that we can help these young people reach their highest possible potential. As the Chair of our Department, I get to watch the wonderful work our faculty are doing to prepare. I get to grin at the thoughts of seeing these smiling faces daily over the next few years.

One of the major joys of being a mother, AND one of the major joys of pediatrics is contributing in a positive manner to a child's development.

So that is why these adults are my "babies." I intend to watch with joy as they pass through their developmental stages. Most will start as novices, and they will (slowly or quickly) move through levels where they gain  increasingly complex knowledge, skills and attitudes until they meet the definition of expert and hopefully master. Just as no child develops at exactly the same rate as any other child, our residents will progress at different rates. Sometimes they will falter in learning a new skill or absorbing new knowledge. It is our job as faculty to help them recognize their own educational needs, and assist them in recovering their footing and moving on. Just as parents can't learn FOR their children, we must encourage and set the stage for our residents. We must serve as role models, we must treat them like the adults they are in real life. We cannot TELL them, but we can help them learn by ASKING them, or by helping them to ASK the right questions that can lead them to the insights and competencies they need in order to be ready for a life of ongoing learning and development.

Of course we, the faculty will develop along with them.

As for me, my development is going to come as I work with them in reaching their "milestones" in the realm of professionalism. This is my latest goal; project. Teaching professionalism, or rather fostering the learning of professionalism. Determining how to measure professionalism, while it has been described, still poses numerous challenges.

I love challenges.

So, although I just told you about the latest series I will write on this blog, I am now informing you about another--the journey of this residency program, and likely my struggles with my own competencies within it. We will discuss aspects of professionalism, and other issues related to medical education in general and residency training in particular. As always, I treasure your thoughts, comments and guidance. I would love to hear from parents, from staff members, from medical students, from residents, from faculty, from anyone about what is important to you in your pediatrician or pediatric subspecialist. We assume that all graduates of our program will be knowledgeable in the broad as well as the specific areas they need to know to be competent. No one can ever KNOW everything, especially since medical knowledge and practice is changing so rapidly. But for too many years, medical education focused SOLELY on knowledge acquisition. Your input can help us to guide our focus on all the other areas, perhaps those not so easily measured that will make graduates of our program "the best."

Thanks so much. I so appreciate your input.

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