My Conference Experience: Q and A with Eli Khazoum, DO

6 March 2023

Dr. Eli Khazoum is the rising Chief Resident for the internal medicine residency program at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields in Olympia Fields, Illinois. He attended the 2023 ACGME Annual Educational Conference in part to support his transition into the Chief Resident role. As a resident and first-time Annual Educational Conference attendee, we asked him to share his impressions.

ACGME: Can you tell us a little about your path in medicine?

Dr. Khazoum: I became interested in medicine midway through my undergraduate experience at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. At the time I was studying kinesiology in the college of applied health sciences, with the intention of pursuing a career in physical therapy. I switched my focus to medicine after volunteering in a hospital and realizing that I craved to understand more complex, intricate pathologies. However, my background in kinesiology taught me to think about health from a more holistic (as opposed to strictly scientific) perspective. I was taught the necessity of physical activity and the importance of the social determinants of health. That mindset informed my decision to pursue an osteopathic medical degree at Midwestern University, Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. As an osteopathic medical student, in addition to having this holistic mindset nurtured, I learned the value of clinical reasoning from teachers who were able to clearly explain pathophysiology and relate it to the prescribed treatment. I decided on internal medicine after my first in patient clerkship during my third year at Franciscan Health. This was the first time that I saw residents, fellows, and attendings work together and teach each other in a graduated fashion (attendings to the whole team, fellows to residents and students, residents to students). The attitude was such that I felt inherently motivated to read and learn after I went home. I recall asking a fellow sheepishly at the end of this rotation how competitive it was to enter the residency at that institution, worried that it might be beyond my reach. Two years later I matched into their 2023 residency class. At present I am preparing cardiology fellowship applications and transitioning into the role of Chief Resident for the coming academic year.

ACGME: What made you want to come to the Annual Educational Conference this year?

Khazoum: I am transitioning into the role of Chief Resident for my residency program in the coming year. A large part of my motivation for taking the job was an understanding that becoming a clinically competent physician necessitates that the learner be challenged while a safe environment that fosters clinical curiosity and inquiry is still maintained. That is easy to say, but hard to do. I aim to be intentional about facilitating this environment for our residents. My purpose for attending [the ACGME conference] was to learn practical ways of achieving this and expose any blind spots that might have been standing in the way.

ACGME: What was your experience like once you got to the conference?

Khazoum: My experience was eye-opening. I quickly became aware of numerous, relevant challenges to properly educating a body of residents that I had never considered before. The very act of listening to numerous program directors discuss the challenges they were facing in [graduate medical education] GME, provided me the context both to understand my own program's challenges on a deeper level and to generate ideas that might solve them.

ACGME: Which session(s) had the biggest impact? Why?

Khazoum: I appreciated those sessions such as “Nutrition and Health: Developing a GME Framework,” which reminded me of the importance of the (so often overlooked) social determinants of health and their true impact on well-being. I also appreciated the sessions regarding maximizing didactics for an x+y curriculum. Perhaps most importantly, the numerous poster presentations targeted at improving learner wellness gave me several ideas for improving resident morale that are easily implementable, cost-conscious, and have the promise of being highly efficacious.

ACGME: What was your greatest takeaway?

Khazoum: My greatest takeaway was that, with something as complex a running a medical training program, there is no one person who will have the answer to everything. The need for discussion among the different parties involved is paramount. To that end, I would suggest that more programs make it a point to send at least one learner to the conference. While it is true that we are learners, we are also privy to an important perspective, about which those in GME, through no fault of their own, may be entirely unaware. Not including residents and fellows in the discussion is akin to formulating a treatment plan without first taking a patient history.

ACGME: Will you come again? Why/why not?

Khazoum: I do hope to come again. Participating in education and mentoring is important to me and, though I am not sure what the timeline will be, I am sure this is not the last time I will be involved with GME. Knowing how much I took away from the conference, it would be silly not to return in the future.

ACGME: The theme of this year’s conference was “Meaning in Medicine: Making a Difference.” Did you feel the presence of this theme at the conference? Where do you find your personal meaning and joy in work?

Khazoum: Put simply, yes. I find joy in my work whenever I am able to: 1. Identify a previously missed ailment by paying close attention to what the patient is saying; 2. Reach a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan through careful clinical reasoning; 3. Alleviate a patient's anxiety just by taking them seriously; and 4.Teach others to do 1-3.