Education stands at the core of a strong academic General Surgery residency program. Here in the Department of Surgery at Washington University in St. Louis, we believe that an innovative and intentional curriculum focused on what the residents truly need is key to a strong and effective education porgram. As such, our resident-led Curriculum Committee is an essential part of our program, and the thoughtful and creative residents spearheading the Curriculum Committee are an invaluable cornerstone of General Surgery education here at WashU.
The Curriculum Committee is currently led by Dr. Tiffany Brocke (and recently Drs. Julie Clanahan, Britta Han, and Annie Hess), the most recent American College of Surgeons Accredited Education Institute (ACS-AEI) Simulation Fellow, in addition to myself and Dr. Michael Awad, the Washington University Institute for Surgical Education (WISE) Director. The Committee is comprised of fellow residents, faculty, associate program directors (APDs), and staff in the Office of Surgical Education and the WISE Lab who are all dedicated to, and interested in, surgical education. This Committee is responsible for the design and implementation of the education curriculum, including weekly lectures, skills labs, grand rounds lectures, ABSITE preparation, use of the SCORE curriculum, and more. Of note, we are only one of 19 ACS-AEI fellowships in the country!
The Curriculum Committee relies on resident and faculty feedback throughout the curriculum creation process. Each spring, the General Surgery residents attend a “Resident Retreat” where they are given specific opportunities to comment on the year’s education efforts. In addition, after weekly lectures and labs, surveys are distributed to gather feedback on the speakers they heard and/or the skills lab that they attended. This feedback serves as an essential means of evaluation for the Curriculum Committee as they consider any improvements or changes to inform future topics or labs or approaches to maintain the best education possible. In late spring each year, the Curriculum Committee holds their own retreat, dedicating several hours for committee members to collaborate on the upcoming year’s curriculum and also consider future innovations or unique ideas.
In addition to our standard weekly curriculum, our residents have also focused on other essential areas of resident education that go beyond surgical skills and knowledge. Dr. Julie Clanahan is currently working to refine a resident leadership curriculum with APD Dr. Jeffrey Blatnik, myself, and a national consortium of programs with similar interests, building on a foundation set by previous Curriculum Committee chairs, Drs. Eileen Smith and Katharine Caldwell. Dr. Smith established a “Chief Capstone” curriculum that was delivered to former graduating chiefs with great accolades to the speakers, covering topics like contract negotiation, career planning, and transition to practice – something that our new Chair, Dr. John Olson, has been continuing with the current chief residents this academic year. We hope to expand the leadership curriculum to include residents at every level based on Dr. Clanahan’s residency-wide needs assessment which was recently completed and published. In addition, the WashU Department of Surgery’s Patient Safety and Quality Improvement (PSQI) leadership has collaborated with Dr. Britta Han to create a PSQI curriculum to incorporate into our morbidity and mortality (M&M) conferences starting this month; Dr. Piroska Kopar, the Director of the Center for Humanism and Ethics in the Surgical Sciences, is working with residents like Drs. Leah Conant, Annie Hess, and Hannah Phelps to create an ethics curriculum to incorporate into M&M that had a great start this year; and resident Dr. Jorge Zárate-Rodriguez continues to champion the Provider Awareness and Cultural Dexterity Toolkit for Surgeons (PACTS) curriculum focused on improving patient outcomes as part of a recently-completed national trial. Of note, the effectiveness and import of the PACTS curriculum was recently underscored through an ACS Rise article with Drs. Zárate and Caldwell and the PACTS collaborators. We couldn’t be more proud of the leadership efforts, creativity, and innovative spirit of our trainees to impact the future of surgical education!
To conclude, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Drs. Eberlein and Klingensmith for all that they have done to lay the foundations and create the support pipeline to maintain the interest and enthusiasm toward education in our Department, as well as set the national surgical education standard for residencies across the country in terms of simulation and didactics curricula. We are excited to see how Dr. Olson helps guide us into the future of surgical education!
Paul Wise, MD
General Surgery Residency
Washington University School of Medicine