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Council formed to support early career physicians

Aug. 24, 2017, 9:29 AM

A physician council has been established to recognize excellence among early career clinicians at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and to create dialogue between leadership and faculty regarding obstacles to ongoing success.

The Early Career Physician Council was formed 18 months ago with a focus on fostering an environment to support excellence in patient care and physician practice, while addressing issues that are specific to junior faculty members.

“Early career clinicians represent almost 50 percent of VUMC’s physician community,” said Paul Sternberg Jr., M.D., one of the executive sponsors. “Their insights and priorities are critical to the success of the Medical Center, and often provide a different yet meaningful perspective to how we address key issues.

“In fact, it was the members of the more established Physician Council who suggested we create this second group and give this important group of faculty a voice. In its short time, the Early Career Council has addressed a number of challenges including mentorship, physician wellness and EpicLeap. We are fortunate to have such a talented group of outstanding early career clinicians willing to contribute their valuable time to better VUMC,” said Sternberg, Chief Patient Experience Officer, George W. Hale Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and chair of the department and director of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute.

The council unites approximately 27 physicians in their first seven years of practice and engages them in dialogue and activities directed toward promoting superior patient care, extraordinary service and a high level of faculty and patient satisfaction.

“Its purpose is to give a voice to clinical physicians in their early stages of faculty appointment,” said Jill Simmons, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics. “We are realizing that people in that stage of their career and life have different needs in comparison to people more established in their careers.”

One of the essential tools for career development of early career physicians is mentorship for excellence in clinical care, academic accomplishment, leadership and promotion.

Appointment to the council requires initial nominations provided by department chairs and final selection by the council chairs and executive sponsors.

The number of faculty is proportional to the size of each department and includes Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Medicine, Neurology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics, Otolaryngology and Visual Sciences, Outpatient Medicine (VMG Williamson), Pathology, Pediatrics, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Psychiatry, Radiation Oncology, Radiology and Radiological Sciences and Surgical Sciences. Members serve a two-year term.

The executive sponsors of the Early Career Physician Council and chairs of the already established Physician Council for Clinical Service Excellence include: Sternberg; Meg Rush, M.D., Chief of Staff and Executive Medical Director of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt; and Andre Churchwell, M.D., the Levi Watkins Jr. M.D. Chair, professor of Medicine, Biomedical Engineering and Radiology and Radiological Sciences, and Senior Associate Dean for Diversity Affairs.

The council is accountable to the Chief Medical Officer and the Vanderbilt Medical Group Board. The primary staff and facilitators are Brian Carlson and Lara Mead.

The council is led by three faculty members who were nominated by their department chairs based on excellence of clinical service and then selected by the executive sponsors following an interview process.

The Early Career Physician Council co-chairs are Sarah Rohde, M.D., Jill Simmons, M.D., and Heidi Smith, M.D., MSCI.

Rohde is an assistant professor of Otolaryngology, who received her medical degree from the University of Virginia, completed both her surgical residency and otolaryngology fellowship at VUMC and whose practice encompasses the treatment of adults with head and neck tumors, including major ENT reconstruction.

Simmons is an associate professor of Pediatrics, who received her medical degree from the University of Tennessee, completed both her pediatric residency and endocrine fellowship at the Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado, and whose practice specializes in the care of children with endocrine-related disease, particularly metabolic bone disease and type 1 diabetes.

Smith is an assistant professor of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics, who received her medical degree from the University of South Dakota, completed her pediatric and anesthesiology residencies and fellowships in pediatric critical care and pediatric anesthesiology at VUMC, and is a specialist in pediatric cardiac anesthesiology and a physician scientist studying pediatric delirium.

“It’s an honor to be selected for the council,” Simmons said. “These physicians are leaders and excellent clinicians. We are really excited to have active, bright, young physicians to help make decisions about what’s going on with Vanderbilt.”

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