Helping Young Physicians Pursue Scholarship

Innovative Hospitalist Scholars Training Program receives AAMC award

Dana Edelson, MD, left, and Jeanne Farnan, MD, were the first two scholars in an innovative University of Chicago Medicine training program founded by David Meltzer, MD, PhD.

Even before Jeanne Farnan, MD, began her internal medicine residency, she knew she wanted medical education to be a focus of her career.

But at the time, there were no fellowship-type programs that gave young physicians entering hospital medicine the protected time needed to build an academic career while gaining clinical experience.

Many physicians coming out of residency are so overwhelmed with the demands of caring for patients that they have little time to devote to scholarship -- or anything else.

The lack of academic opportunities and the rigors of clinical care have led to high rates of burnout and turnover among hospitalists -- a growing field of medical specialists increasingly relied upon by health systems to efficiently care for patients.

This state of affairs prompted David Meltzer, MD, PhD, chief of the section of hospital medicine, to found the Hospitalist Scholars Training Program in 2005. Vineet Arora, MD, associate professor of medicine, and Chad Whelan, MD, former associate professor of medicine, joined Meltzer as mentors.

The innovative two-year program combines reduced clinical responsibilities with protected time for young physicians to further their scholarship with a master's-level degree and to become leaders in research, medical education and quality improvement.

Last fall, the Association of American Medical Colleges recognized Meltzer and the program with a Learning Health System Challenge Award, one of only five awarded nationally.

"There's no question my career trajectory would have been completely different if I had not been given the opportunity to do this program."

"The program really changed the way I thought about what I wanted to do," said Farnan, one of the first two hospitalist scholars.

In practice, the program puts the "academic" in academic medical center and has made the University of Chicago Medicine's hospital medicine section one of the top scholarly sections in the country.

Farnan earned a master of health professions education degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2009. Today she is an associate professor of medicine as well as director of clinical skills education, director of curricular evaluation and medical director of the Clinical Performance Center at the Pritzker School of Medicine.

"The holy grail of medical education is to be able to teach someone something that will impact the outcome for others," she said.

Farnan's colleague in the first year was Dana Edelson, MD, assistant professor of medicine. Edelson originally had planned to double board in internal and emergency medicine. After completing her internal medicine residency, she spent a year researching in-hospital cardiac arrests. The more she studied the cases, the more she realized many of these events were preventable. And she wanted to pursue her research further.

"Serendipitously, at the moment that I realized I didn't want to continue on the path I was on, here was a new path opening up," said Edelson, who earned her master of science degree in health studies from UChicago. "There's no question my career trajectory would have been completely different if I had not been given the opportunity to do this program, and I'm forever grateful."

Eielson's research into cardiac arrests and resuscitations over the past decade identified several key indicators that reliably predict a possible arrest, thus enabling clinicians to intercede before it happens. Her work has also made her a recognized leader in this area.

Last year, Edelson was appointed director of rescue care and resiliency at UChicago Medicine, a position that allows her to take the lessons learned from her research and translate them into clinical practice to decrease cardiac arrest rates and improve survival for patients experiencing acute clinical deterioration.

In addition to Edelson and Farnan, about 20 other physicians have gone through the scholars program, and all graduates have remained in hospital medicine.

In its early years, most of the young physician-scholars had completed their residencies at UChicago Medicine. That number has fallen to about one-third as the program's national reputation has grown. It now attracts young physicians from across the country.

"It's a win-win for everybody: The section gets people who want to do clinical work but also good academic work, and the scholars get a clinical job with great experience, plus research mentorship and the time to do that research," said Farnan.

"It's a win-win for everybody: The section gets people who want to do clinical work but also good academic work, and the scholars get a clinical job with great experience, plus research mentorship and the time to do that research," said Farnan.

This story originally ran in the Spring 2014 issue of Medicine on the Midway, a publication of the University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences Division. 

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