Meet Susan Kirk, MD, Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education

June 6, 2017 by   |   Leave a Comment

Susan Kirk, MD, Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education, Associate Professor of Medicine

Susan Kirk, MD, Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education, Associate Professor of Medicine

What resources does the Office for Graduate Medical Education offer UVA School of Medicine faculty?

Susan Kirk, MD, Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education, Associate Professor of Medicine, answers that question and more.

This post is part of a series of interviews with faculty and staff who offer resources to SOM faculty. Stay tuned for more interviews with your colleagues!

Q: Can you tell us about the services that Graduate Medical Education offers to faculty?

We are like an island when it comes to the services we provide, because we are designed to support all aspects of a resident’s or fellow’s education and employment. We have 800 residents and probably about a thousand faculty who are directly or indirectly involved with residents. We touch every aspect from the curriculum, the evaluation, the HR components, contracting, payroll, benefits, things as seemingly trivial as white coats and pagers, which are actually pretty important, to legal aspects – anything that involves the life of a resident or the faculty who are supervising or teaching comes under our umbrella.

Nobody ever goes to college and says, “I want to be a program director,” or, “I want to be a GME administrator.” They get there by other routes, and they usually get there by their passion for working and educating residents. Our job is to take that broader experience and that passion and help them channel it into ways that are more specific to graduate medical education.

Last year, we held a retreat for some of the leaders of Graduate Medical Education and asked, “What are we doing well? What could we be doing better?” Most people thought that accreditation of our programs and institution, which is really a big part of our book of business, was fine. But they felt like the faculty development that was offered through the school was primarily focused on promotion and tenure, work-life balance, LCME preparation, and the education of medical students, and that there was a gap when it came to faculty development in the graduate medical education arena.

We took that on, and we created a development series for new and associate program directors, that meets every other month for an hour and tackles a topic that is unique to graduate medical education. A lot of the new and the associate program directors have come, but a lot of the senior program directors have come, too. This is great, because not only do they get a little refresher lecture, but they bring their wisdom and their experiences to share with their junior colleagues as well.

We’ve tackled some pretty hard things, like remediation of residents who are behind in their education. We had a wonderful series on evaluation and what that means in regards to residents and fellows. We’ve done some pretty dry topics too, like the funding of graduate medical education, which you need to understand if you’re going to run a program. Then we talked about avoiding match violations. If you’re on the – not the student side, but on the program director side – and you’re talking to applicants, how do you go about avoiding violating the NRMP requirements.

The discussions were really well received. We offered them at seven in the morning and at five at night, so that people could choose a time of day that suited them. Many of our program directors are in the age where they’re parents of younger children, so we try to be flexible when it comes to offering the discussions.

We’re also sharing the development series with some of the smaller community hospitals that are starting up residency programs. With our nice, new facilities here, we can video-broadcast to them. It’s not as easy to get this information in a chunk of literature. I think people really appreciate the fact that it’s being provided to them in a way that is easily digestible.

We also do some onboarding of all the new program directors, which gets more into the nitty gritty of their actual program administration.

Q: Is there anything that you’d like to add before we move on?

We’re also open to suggestions. If somebody says, “I need some help with this,” and sometimes it’s really the nuts and bolts of curriculum, or designing a block schedule, everyone in my office is geared to be supportive to a faculty member who needs help. So it might not be the same sort of professional development, but in terms of learning the skills of what you need, our door is always open to people coming in at any time to ask for assistance. That’s why we exist.

Q: How long have you been at UVA, and where were you before you came to UVA?

26 years. I came in 1991. Previously, I was a resident and chief resident in medicine at the University of North Carolina. Before that, I had been in New Jersey for undergraduate and medical school, then I crossed the Mason-Dixon line in 1987.

Q: When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Oh, I knew for a very long time that I wanted to be a physician. I can remember very distinctly riding in the car with my mother at age ten and telling her that I wanted to be a veterinarian. And my mother, who had sort of a hands-off approach to all this – she was the antithesis to the helicopter parent, and of course this was the ’60s, so it was a little bit different back then – said, “You know, I think it would be challenging to be a vet. You couldn’t really talk to your patients. I think that a better job would be a doctor.”

And I thought, “Ok, fine.”

I clearly remember that time as, “Ok, this is what I want to be.”

Q: Do you have any children or fur babies at home that you’d like to tell us about?

I have both. None of my human babies are at home. I’ve got a 26-year-old daughter who is about to graduate with her master’s in social work from the University of Maryland; a son who is in LA as an actor; two twins who have just graduated from Indiana University; and my youngest daughter is a UVA student, about to finish her second year.

Q: Do you have a favorite local restaurant or hangout spot here in Charlottesville?

My husband and I go to Beer Run almost every Friday night. We love the wait staff. It’s super casual. After really intense work weeks, we’re both thinking, “We can’t cook!” They take good care of us, to the point where they now know our names!


Filed Under: Administrative Support Interviews, Faculty Interviews, Interviews



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