Your Conference Experience: Q and A with ACGME Board Chair Dr. Rowen Zetterman

March 7, 2018

As the current chair of the ACGME Board of Directors, Rowen Zetterman, MD, filled several important roles at this year’s Annual Educational Conference, presenting awards and introducing Dr. Nasca for his President and CEO Address among them. We caught up with Dr. Zetterman in between his activities to learn a little more about his experience the last few years with the ACGME and, in particular, at the Annual Educational Conference.

Q: Tell us a little more about Dr. Zetterman on the job: your academic and professional roles and appointments.

A: At the ACGME, in addition to serving on the Executive Committee and the Board, I served on and chaired the Governance Committee, was Co-Chair of the Section VI Common Program Requirements Task Force, and was on the Monitoring Committee, Compensation Committee, and the Investment Subcommittee. I currently also serve on the Task Force for Physician Well-being.

By day, I am an internist, gastroenterologist, and hepatologist and a Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha, Nebraska. Following medical training and two years in the United States Army at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I returned to Nebraska. Most of my career has been at UNMC in a variety of clinical and administrative positions. As part of that, I also was at the Nebraska-Western Iowa Veterans Affairs Medical Center where I served as Chief of the Medical Service and the Chief of Staff. There was an interlude as Dean, Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, where I am now Dean Emeritus. I returned to UNMC and am currently the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategic Planning, and the Director of Faculty Mentoring.

During my academic career, I’ve had the opportunity to work in medical organizations as a volunteer leader at the American College of Physicians, the American College of Gastroenterology, Metro-Omaha Medical Society, and the Nebraska Medical Association.

Q: Since you became Chair of the ACGME Board of Directors in the fall of 2016, what do you see as the Board’s biggest accomplishment?

A: I find it hard to separate the important progression of activities already underway when I became Board Chair and those that just began. We are now more than halfway through the transition to a single accreditation system, a crucial and important credentialing event for American medicine. This started when I joined the Board and, as Chair, I’ve had the opportunity to watch it grow and to utilize the strengths of both allopathic and osteopathic medicine for the benefit of education and credentialing of our trainees.

The recent release of Section VI changes to the Common Program Requirements and the impending completion of revision to Sections I-V has grown the training opportunities of residents and fellows with enhancements in patient safety, quality of care, well-being of all trainees and faculty members, professionalism, and other changes that will enhance American medical training programs into the future. The recent release of the Sponsoring Institution 2025 (SI2025) study and report has also laid the foundation for the revision and enhancement of the Institutional Requirements that will be accomplished in the near future.

Q: What has been your favorite part about serving as Board Chair for the ACGME?

A: My favorite part has been the opportunity to work with the outstanding individuals who make up the multitude of volunteers for our Review Committees, Task Forces, and the ACGME Board, and with the incredible staff of the ACGME. You will not find a more dedicated group working to improve health care in the United States through accreditation of residency training programs.

Q: This is your last Annual Educational Conference as Chair. What has your experience been like in this space – one of the biggest gatherings of the GME community?

A: I was truly amazed the first time I came to the Annual Educational Conference as a Board member. I had not attended previously, and quickly realized that had been a mistake. Every year I learned more about the education and training of one of America’s most important resources: it’s future practicing, teaching, investigating, and service-oriented physicians. From the most well-known to the newest educator giving a presentation, there is always more to learn at the ACGME Annual Educational Conference.

Q: Where do you think the conference adds the most value?

A: Though many of the large venue presenters teach me a great deal when they speak, it is the opportunity to meet and interact with people of similar interests in smaller classrooms. There, we can discuss and characterize the issues of importance to each of us, meet colleagues on whom we can rely in the future to help us with difficult situations, or form investigation teams to evaluate important educational questions.

Q: Do you have any suggestions on how to enhance the conference?

A: The Education Committee of the ACGME Board takes feedback seriously, and evaluates and plans future activities at the Annual Educational Conference based on those results. What I hope to see more of in the future is greater involvement of our residents and fellows in providing presentations at the conference. We have much to learn from our physicians in training, and we need to provide them a venue to teach us how to be even better educators. Our Back to Bedside initiative is a great start in terms of implementing learnings from the residents and fellows, and we need to keep learning more from them!

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add for our readers?

A: It has been a great personal honor to have been nominated and to have served as a member of the ACGME Board. I am humbled to have been chosen and thrilled to serve, and hope to continue to work closely with the ACGME in preparing physicians for the future.