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 in Nashville, Tennessee February 23-25, 2023.
2023 Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Awardee Dr. Alisa (Lisa) McQueen is the program director of the pediatrics residency at the University of Chicago.
ACGME: What does this award mean to you?
McQueen: Honestly, I’m humbled, and I don’t feel like I deserve this award. I’m incredibly proud of the work our residents do, and I just try to get out of the way.
ACGME: What do you feel is the most important job a program director has?
McQueen: We have just finished another interview season when we meet with our prospective applicants, and one of my favorite parts of those interview days is bragging about all of the amazing accomplishments that my residents have achieved. I frequently tell them: my job is to get obstacles out of your way, and I really do think that might be my most important job as a program director. This is the next generation of physicians, pediatricians, educators, policy makers, and they are filled with ideas and energy. As a faculty leader, I have access to resources and relationships with other leaders that I can leverage so that this next generation can do better than we did.
ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
McQueen: My absolute favorite thing is hearing from a former resident about an accomplishment. Sometimes I get a text about a procedure trick that worked, or a diagnosis they made. It fills me with so much pride.
ACGME: What is the most challenging?
McQueen: It’s really hard to see our youngest colleagues struggle in a system that is supposed to be about patient care and education, but lives within a health care system structured around profit and greed. I am most saddened – though I understand how it happens – when I see these grim realizations lead to disillusionment.
ACGME: What advice do you have to residents or fellows who may be interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine?
McQueen: Jump in, say “yes” to things that scare you, say “yes, and” to things that challenge you.
ACGME: Is there anything you would like to add we haven’t asked about?
McQueen: We are in a very challenging time in medicine, and there are so many changes we can make. Many of our residents help us make these changes but they often take time to implement, and it means that they don’t get to directly see the fruits of their labor. Keep the big picture in sight. I think academic medicine is going to look very different in the coming years and this generation of physicians in training is going to make it better.
Learn more about the ACGME’s Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award and nominate a deserving DIO for the 2024 Award – nominations are due by March 15, 2023.