February 24, 2020

Honoring Excellence: Q and A with 2020 ACGME Awardee Donald L. Gilbert, MD, MS

Donald L. Gilbert, MD, MS

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.

Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Awardee Donald L. Gilbert, MD, MS is the residency program director for child neurology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

ACGME: How did you become involved in medicine, and in academic medicine specifically?

Gilbert: I observed doctors treating family members during my childhood and read a book called The Making of a Surgeon by William A. Nolen, MD. I was also in Boy Scouts for many years; their slogan is “do a good turn daily.” These inspired me to consider a career serving others in medicine. Academics grew out of enjoying the process of asking and trying to answer questions, which I experienced in my undergraduate years, as a philosophy major/pre-med, as intensely stimulating.

ACGME: What does receiving this award mean to you?

Gilbert: I was nominated for this award several times by our residency program manager (“coordinator”) Terri Feist and by our residents. Knowing that these important people believed so strongly that I deserved a national teaching award that they took time out of their busy lives to nominate me makes me feel very valued as a person and a professional.

ACGME: What do you feel is the most important job the program director has?

Gilbert: Creating the best possible educational environment for the residents. This is a critical time—the foundation for their independent clinical practice, caring for people, and possibly a career in academics, advancing human knowledge, as well.

ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Gilbert: The teaching and mentoring interactions with the residents during training, followed closely by these interactions with them after residency as they launch their careers.

ACGME: What is the most challenging?

Gilbert: For our residents, balancing and optimizing education versus clinical service. For myself, allocating time appropriately between the residency and my other work responsibilities.

ACGME: What advice do you have to residents or fellows who may be interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine?

Gilbert: Remember that medical school clerkships and residency rotations are interesting and varied one-month blocks, but your career may be a “30- to 40-year block.” Consider whether incorporating academics into your work will multiply the measure of your life and significantly augment the satisfaction you will experience in your career over the decades.

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

Gilbert: The ACGME has provided me with the most useful information about how to be a successful program director. I am grateful for that. I also recognize that there are so many other deserving, hardworking, thoughtful, and capable residency program directors. So, I’m quite pleased to be recognized as a teacher by the ACGME.