Studies have shown that rates of depression and burnout among medical residents increase sharply during training. Many residency programs do not encourage their residents to talk about difficult situations or to take care of themselves. Yet, an open and collaborative learning environment is essential to improving the health of our medical residents.
To emphasize this principle, The Arnold P. Gold Foundation has partnered with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to create the DeWitt (Bud) C. Baldwin, Jr. Award. This award (named for a pioneer in interprofessional education and collaborative practice) recognizes institutions with accredited residency/fellowship programs that foster a respectful, supportive environment for medical education.
“We need to make sure that the way we train residents is rooted in the values of humanism and compassion,” said Dr. Richard Levin, President and CEO of The Arnold P. Gold Foundation. “Honoring an institution and not an individual is a critical recognition in bringing 21st century healthcare into a community of caring.”
The winners of the first annual DeWitt C. Baldwin, Jr. Award were presented at the ACGME’s Annual Educational Conference in February. The three winners were: the Medical College of Wisconsin Affiliated Hospitals, Inc., the VA Caribbean Health Care System, and the Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation.
Sixty sites were invited to submit applications for the award based on how they teach physicians in residency training about professionalism and foster a culture of respect, dignity and compassion. Six institutions were chosen for a site visit, where they demonstrated best practices in any way that they wanted, and interviews were conducted with residents, staff, and faculty. For example, at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, staff members across the institution promoted a non-judgmental culture that addressed system weaknesses in the event of adverse events, rather than immediately blaming individuals.
“Winning this award was quite an honor,” said Dr. Kenneth Simons of the Medical College of Wisconsin. “We try to treat our residents as equals and we systematically scan the environment to find out what is going on and how it could be made better.”
“This year’s awardees highlight the increasingly high quality work and innovation underway in the graduate medical education community. The many successes achieved by the awardees showcase the important contributions of every member of the community, including institutions, residents, designated institutional officers, program directors, and coordinators.” said Thomas J. Nasca, MD, Chief Executive Officer, ACGME.
Dr. Maricarmen Cruz-Jimenez led the visit at VA Caribbean Health System in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “There is a culture here. It’s not just rules and procedures, but a real culture of learning in the hospital setting,” she explained.
“The VA has been under scrutiny for the past few years. Winning this award sends a strong message that the VA values humanism and respect, and that we really do try hard to deliver the best care that we can,” she said.
Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, demonstrated that its learning environment exemplified professionalism and enhanced collaborative behavior. “Winning this award doesn’t mean we are perfect,” said Dr. Gregory Thompson of Gundersen. “But the important thing is we have a culture here that allows us to look at what is not going well and improve it.”
“It is an honor for everyone involved because this award focuses on the importance of creating environments that elevate the concept of humanism in medicine so that all healthcare professionals are supported,” explained Levin.