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 Lead Awardee John Patrick T. Co, MD, MPH is the designated institutional official (DIO) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
ACGME: How did you become involved in medicine, and in academic medicine specifically?
Co: My interest in medicine began at a very young age, starting with hospital and emergency medical services (EMS) volunteer work during high school. Initially, my goal was to practice pediatric primary care in a small town. In the course of my medical training, my vision for my career changed as I was exposed to inspiring teachers and mentors. They showed me that medicine affords a career to contribute to individual and population health in a myriad of meaningful ways.
ACGME: What does receiving this award mean to you?
Co: It is extremely humbling. I consider many of the prior awardees to be role models. The award reflects the unwavering support of not only my GME team and community, but most importantly my family. If I could include my wife and children as awardees, I would!
ACGME: What do you feel is the most important job a designated institutional official has?
Co: To advocate for, help create, and foster a learning environment in which residents, fellows, program directors, and the institutional overall can learn, thrive, and provide outstanding patient care now and into the future.
ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Co: Working with colleagues within and outside the GME office. In particular, program directors are pivotal to residents and fellows becoming the best versions of themselves. I enjoy getting to know program directors and partnering with them to achieve their own and institutional goals for their learners and program overall.
ACGME: What is the most challenging?
Co: The organization and delivery of health care is changing rapidly. I need to make sure that education evolves with it in such a way that it is properly resourced and remains front and center of our mission.
ACGME: What advice do you have to residents who may be interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine?
Co: Be inquisitive and have a growth mindset in developing your interests. Find a mentor that helps you find and cultivate your passion.