February 13, 2020

Honoring Excellence: Q and A with 2020 ACGME Awardee Andrew Vivas, MD

Andrew Vivas, MD

This interview is one in a series of interviews with recipients of the 2020 ACGME Awards. The awardees join an outstanding group of previous honorees whose work and contributions to graduate medical education (GME) represent the best in the field. They will be honored at the upcoming ACGME Annual Educational Conference, taking place February 27-29 in San Diego, California.

David C. Leach Awardee Andrew Vivas, MD, is currently an assistant attending and adult and pediatric spinal deformity fellow at Columbia University, and was formerly a neurological surgery resident at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida.

ACGME: Why did you want to become a physician?

Vivas: I love science! As an undergraduate, I enjoyed most of my science coursework. Medicine is a great field for people who enjoy applying scientific principles to everyday problems.

ACGME: What, so far, has been the most rewarding part of your fellowship?

Vivas: I am passionate about international health care, outreach work, and international academic exchanges. I’ve greatly enjoyed the opportunity to travel and learn more about the practice of medicine in other countries.

ACGME: What innovation or improvement did you implement in your program?

Vivas: I redesigned the educational curriculum and grand rounds structure at my home institution. In an effort to make the regularly scheduled lectures more cohesive, applicable, and interactive, I incorporated lectures from physicians in the community, as well as attendings from other departments. Ultimately, this helped build relationships among the members of our department and members of the health care community in Tampa Bay. Several collaborations resulted from these new relationships, and the change in the educational curriculum resulted in the highest resident written board pass rate in seven years.

ACGME: What does it mean to you to receive this award?

Vivas: It means a lot. I love my home program and I felt I had an opportunity to give something back to a department that had given me so much. I did this for my co-residents, because they deserve the best education possible. It feels great that the hard work that went into this was recognized by my colleagues and by the ACGME.

ACGME: What advice would you give to other residents/fellows who are looking to either replicate your improvement or implement an original idea of their own in their own program?

Vivas: Carpe Diem! No one will care about your education and training more than you. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize others. Save that negative energy, and be a force for positive change in your program. I was surprised and amazed by the support I received when I took initiative to make changes in my program. Don't be afraid to look outside of your department for opportunities to grow and learn. There is a wealth of knowledge in the community and in other departments.

ACGME: Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven’t asked about?

Vivas: I want to thank my wonderful wife, Chau, and my amazing daughters Isabel and Zoe for their unending support. Daddy loves you!

I’d also like to thank the rest of my family, in particular my sister in law Belinda, who has been huge help in our move to New York City this year. Thanks Auntie Be!