IMHO: In Your Best Interest

Who is looking out for you?

Your Parent(s)
You (please check in with yourself)
Your colleagues
Your attending
Your Program Director
Your Program Chair
You Dub (pun intended, lol)

The question arose after being denied based on our name – UWHA. Perhaps some view it as a four-letter-word… but I digress. Certainly, the answer to the question above depends on the category. In the category of “your wellbeing as a human being educated to heal sickness and realign disorders (another pun)” the answer is spelled out in the mission statement.

UWHA was born out of necessity. Residents knew the institutional ship had to make a turn. Growing rates of apathy, disengagement, dissatisfaction, and burnout are good for nothing. UW has invested in graduate medical education, but without input from graduate medical trainees, and the administrators diminish their own effectiveness at the expense of trainees, patients, and the institution. The system is deranged, and I am not alone in this opinion.

Dr. Jed Wolpaw is the Anesthesiology PD at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD and was interviewed by the spouse of an anesthesia resident on Anesthesia Success, March 1, 2019. Please check out the podcast as it lays out the issues and some solutions eloquently. Here are quotes from the show:

“Medical school aside, let’s talk about graduate medical education. The way we train residents was designed with absolutely… Not only was it designed without any knowledge of adult learning theory, it almost feels like it was designed in direct opposition.” 22:19-22:58 “Residency was designed with the opposite. The WORST possible quality of life. No self-esteem. Self-esteem has traditionally been beaten down by residency.”  (ends 23:28) “…they were just told, go where I tell you, do what I tell you, don’t complain, don’t ask questions, and as long as you don’t challenge the authority here, and you do what you’re told... We’ll spit you out as a trained physician.” (end 24:00)

It’s okay to pause here and take a few deep breaths. Truth hurts. Thankfully just as humans previously hunted & gathered, graduate medical education can evolve. Many smart people are already working at the program level, and hopefully you and your colleagues feel comfortable speaking with program leadership. Systemic issues require systemic solutions.

UWHA’s role in the tide change is at the level of the graduate medical & dental trainee. It works with UW and GME administrators to provide GME trainees with the best possible conditions in which they learn, teach, and practice the art of medicine. I, the President of UWHA want our members to feel supported and valued. Because you are! (grammar police alert) This UWHA President wants every trainee to grow from baby doctor to attending physician with more of the light, desire to help, passion, and compassion you had at the beginning of the process. Change for administrators may be difficult.

Here they thought they truly did know what was best for trainees but are learning that trainees know what is best for themselves. Administration must have more trust in trainees. Graduate medical education is for adults, so being treated as children is unacceptable. Dr. Wolpaw spoke about lack of control being a strong factor in burnout. Trainees need a louder voice and seats at decision-making tables, especially when it comes to their lives.

Please, reader of this newsletter, tell UWHA what is in your best interest. Your voice matters – use it. We are for you! Get involved. Show up, be present. Thank a UWHA board member – encourage them! BTW, “thank a resident day” was super whack, thanks.

In all sincerity, thank you for making it all the way down. I hope you laughed! A lot of work went into this post… I should be studying, but this too is important.

Happy International Women’s Day!! Happy Daylight Savings Time - shine bright like a diamond!!


Tracy L Burns, MD FAAP

UWHA President

Pediatric & Adult Pain Medicine Fellow