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.
Debra L. Dooley GME Program Coordinator Excellence Awardee Diana Lynn Brucha, C-TAGME is the program manager for obstetrics and gynecology at UPMC Medical Education, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
ACGME: How did you become involved in academic medicine?
Brucha: A few months after starting as a medical secretary/receptionist in the OB/GYN department in 1984, my administrator informed me that she was leaving her position and starting her own business and that I was tasked with “taking over the residents.” And oh, by the way, all files were in her office! That was the official, but unceremonious start of my 35-year-career working in the field of graduate medical education and I have loved every minute since. So, when I tell someone that I’ve basically been working at the same hospital, in the same department, and in some ways, in the same position for 35 years, they give me a look as if to say, “Wow, you must be lacking in initiative or ambition!” However, as someone who has been in the field for 35 years, I have seen and experienced the progression of the profession and would have to respond that it has been anything but a stagnant career!
When I started in the position, I was the secretary to the education program, performing such tasks as typing the Program Information Form (PIF) on a typewriter, collecting the residents’ hand-written experience logs (total number of cases only), in addition to a multitude of other secretarial-type tasks all without the help of computers or smart phones. Today, our responsibilities have grown to include the oversight of all requirements including work hours, 360-degree evaluations, competencies, Milestones, Clinical Competency Committees, annual program evaluations, the ACGME Accreditation Data System (ADS), etc. In addition to these additional responsibilities, everything is now computerized or online.
ACGME: What does receiving this award mean to you?
Brucha: I am so honored to receive this award and so grateful that my residents, program, and institution nominated me. To include residency coordinators/managers in such a prestigious award validates our role in the success of our residents, the program, and the institution. I am very proud of this accomplishment!
ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of being a coordinator?
Brucha: To have a vital role in a resident’s growth and development from the time they start out as a green-behind-the-ear intern, to resident, to graduate and then throughout their career is so rewarding to me. One of the most rewarding events that I have witnessed in my role as coordinator/manager was when one of our graduates was appointed chair of our department. Being in the same specialty for 35 years has afforded me the opportunity to watch the progress of our graduates through their careers. Many of them have become experts and leaders in the field of women’s health. This longevity has also afforded me the opportunity to see those graduates who pursued a career in graduate medical education at our specialties’ annual meetings. During my career as a program coordinator/manager, I have had the privilege of watching the metamorphosis of over 300 learners!
ACGME: What is the most challenging part of being a coordinator?
Brucha: I wouldn’t categorize this as a challenge in the sense of my career but a personal challenge. The amount of face-to-face interactions that program coordinators/managers have with residents has decreased significantly as a result of technical advances. Residents no longer need to stop in your office to touch base with you. This makes life easier for us all but also cheats us out of connecting with some residents.
ACGME: What advice do you have to brand-new coordinators who are just starting their careers?
Brucha: My motto to new coordinators/managers (and directors) has always been don’t get discouraged. It takes at least three years before you “get it.” The first year you are just trying to find your way; learning the terminology of the field, figuring out how to find help, all while hoping that you don’t miss an important task and that you meet all deadlines. The second year you feel a little more comfortable, but then something comes across your desk and you think, “Wow, did I really do this in that whirlwind of the first year?!” Then finally, year three comes along and you understand the processes and the reasoning as why you do what you do. Patience is a great attribute to have in this career.