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 Fiona Gallahue, MD, FACEP is the emergency medicine program director for emergency medicine at the University of Washington.
ACGME: How did you become involved in medicine, and in academic medicine specifically?
Gallahue: As the daughter of two therapists, I’ve always been drawn work that mitigates the negative impact of difficult life experiences. This interest brought me to medical school. As a medical student, I had a great experience at Washington University in Saint Louis. My faculty, residents, and co-medical students created an environment of inquiry, of engagement, and were amazing educators and mentors. I learned so much about what it meant to be supportive of each other while still pushing oneself. This experience inspired me to want to be part of a similarly dynamic and encouraging learning environment as a faculty member, and I’m grateful to find that at the University of Washington.
ACGME: What does receiving this award mean to you?
Gallahue: It’s truly an honor to be recognized for this award. I’m honored to represent my specialty and the University of Washington. This award is validation of the work that I, and my team, do every day working to help promote a holistic learning environment. Receiving this award is demonstrable validation that the work we do as program directors matters. I’m immensely grateful to be recognized as an education leader.
ACGME: What do you feel is the most important job the program director has?
Gallahue: There are many important roles for a program director. One of the most important jobs of the program director is to weigh the needs of multiple stakeholders and engage those stakeholders in addressing challenges that arise in an equitable and feasible fashion. It’s especially important to listen to and be respectful of everyone’s perspective and input, this is how we evolve and innovate.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Gallahue: There are many rewarding aspects of the job. A few of my favorites:
ACGME: What is the most challenging?
Gallahue: Recognizing that it is impossible to make everyone happy and learning to be OK with that.
ACGME: What advice do you have to residents or fellows who may be interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine?
Gallahue: Find a mentor (or more than one) who is invested in your success and you are invested in meeting their needs as well. Find and surround yourself with people who are interested, enthusiastic, and accountable who inspire you.
ACGME: Is there anything else you would like to add I haven’t asked about?
Gallahue: Thank you to the ACGME for having an award for program directors and thank you for selecting me for this award. Thank you to the wonderful networks of committed educators that I get to work with, clinically and academically.
Academic medicine is a team sport - I’m immensely grateful for the team at the University of Washington. Thank you to the UW residents who inspire me every day. Thank you to the UW faculty including my chair, my co-program directors, the UW GME office, and my administrators who all deserve recognition. I would also like to thank my husband and my daughters whose support, advice, and flexibility have been invaluable.