Honoring Excellence: Q and A with Karen J. Brasel, MD, MPH

January 19, 2023

This interview is one in a series of interviews with recipients of the 2023 ACGME Awards. The awardees join an outstanding group of previous honorees whose work and contributions to graduate medical education (GME) represent the best in the field. They will be honored at the ACGME Annual Educational Conference, taking place on February 23-25, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

2023 Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Awardee Dr. Karen Brasel is the program director for surgery, vice chair for education, and assistant dean for GME at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).


ACGME: How did you become involved in medicine, and in academic medicine specifically?

Dr. Brasel: We took a field trip in high school to visit a graduate from our high school who was a medical student at the University of Iowa. It was facilitated by my high school biology teacher, Jim Kelly, who was one of many influential teachers in my life. I have often said that if I wasn’t in academic medicine, I would be a math professor—the teaching and education aspect of what I do is that fundamental to who and what I am.

ACGME: What does this award mean to you? 

Dr. Brasel: It is hard to put into words how much it truly means. To me this is an award that validates my passion and purpose—that recognition is incredibly affirming and brings an indescribable amount of joy.

ACGME: What do you feel is the most important job the program director has?

Dr. Brasel: Ensuring the competence of graduating residents.

ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Dr. Brasel: Hearing from residents who have graduated about what training at OHSU has meant to them.

ACGME: What is the most challenging? 

Dr. Brasel: Supporting faculty members who are pulled in so many different directions by so many competing interests that take them away from teaching.

ACGME: What advice do you have to residents or fellows who may be interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine?

Dr. Brasel: There are a lot of opportunities and a lot of different ways to have a career in and/or contribute to academic medicine and it can happen at a lot of different points in your life. Ask questions, become involved, reach out. There is nothing like investing in the future and paying it forward.


Learn more about the ACGME’s Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award and nominate a deserving program director for the 2024 Award – nominations are due by March 15, 2023.