4 resolutions for a new academic year

With a flip of a calendar page, the new academic year is upon us. For much of the workforce, July 1st signifies the halfway point of the fiscal year, and most Americans would say that each new year starts on January 1st. However, those of us in academia, particularly those of us in medical and graduate medical education, understand how significant this day is. It is the day when newly-minted doctors begin their specialty training, don their long white coats, and start placing orders independently.

Today I become a PGY-21 (post-graduate year 21), meaning that I began my residency training (and became a PGY-1) exactly twenty years ago. I received a certificate of completion of my residency three years after that, but I still tend to think of myself as part of this academic framework and strive to be a lifelong learner as well as teacher.

This New Year’s Day, I reflect on ways to be a better student of medicine, teacher of medicine, academic physician, and all-around human being. In order to guide me and keep me on course over the next 12 months, I have come up with the following Academic New Year’s Resolutions:

To finally update my CV into the proper format, create an educator’s portfolio, and go up for promotion. I spent the first six years of my career in non-academic settings, and the next six focused more on getting and staying pregnant and nurturing my own young children. I firmly believe that women are more than capable of pursuing their academic goals while mothering, but I wanted to be a mother to my young children in a certain way. I wanted to maximize my time with them while still having a rewarding career. I settled on a balance of working my hospitalist shifts and fulfilling my role as an associate program director, but not taking on many extra projects or any research activities. My three children are all in grade school now, and it is time for me to expand my roles at work. I don’t regret this approach but find myself dragging my feet a little, wondering if I am worthy.

To create thoughtful goals for myself and my team residents and medical students each time I am an inpatient attending. I will solicit goals from my team as well and write them on our whiteboard so that we can hold each other accountable and help each other throughout the week. I have done this off and on, but it is important to me to be more consistent in this endeavor.

To provide meaningful face to face feedback to each resident and medical student on my team at the end of each block that I am on service. This is also something I have tried to do, but I have often allowed other priorities to interfere. It will take true effort on my part to make sure this happens. I am also committing to be as honest as possible, even when addressing ways for them to improve. That part is usually less comfortable, but it is also the most important part. I will also ask each of my team members to provide feedback to me.

To provide education on both clinical medicine and medical humanities topics each day. It is my responsibility to teach students and residents about general inpatient pediatric medicine so that they can take good care of their future patients and pass their board exams. I also believe that it is my responsibility (and my privilege) to teach students and residents what I have learned along the way about how we, as physicians, can take care of ourselves and each other. I have pushed myself to broach these topics even when I have worried that they are “too touchy-feely” or that “not everyone is into this.” I have always been pleased by the discussion that follows and commit to providing both types of education each day.

I might still order takeout for lunch each day that I am on service, and I am not committing to cut down on my caffeine intake, but I will hold myself accountable for the four resolutions above.

Lisa Sieczkowski is a pediatrician. 

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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