February 19, 2020

Honoring Excellence: Q and A with 2020 ACGME Awardee Ljiljana Popovic

Ljiljana Popovic

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 Ljiljana Popovic is the program coordinator for neurology at Boston University Medical Center (BUMC).

ACGME: How did you become involved in academic medicine?

Popovic: I first became involved in academic medicine in 2003 when I started as a fellowship coordinator in the Department of Infectious Diseases at BUMC. At the time, I was looking into expanding my leadership skills and stumbled into the job. I was fortunate enough to work with an outstanding mentor who showed me how to make a difference in GME and contribute to the institution as a whole. In 2005, I joined the Neurology Department and I currently manage the neurology residency and five fellowships. I am thrilled to work with such talented and committed house staff and my terrific colleagues in the program leadership.

ACGME: What does receiving this award mean to you?

Popovic: It is indeed a great honor for me to receive this prestigious award. I was deeply moved after learning that I was one of this year’s honorees. Being nominated by my colleagues and being recognized by the ACGME for the work that I do is truly humbling.

ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of being a coordinator?

Popovic: As a coordinator, I thrive on watching my residents and fellows progress through various stages of their post-graduate education and reaching their goals in life. I am inspired every day by the work that they do, and consider myself honored to partner with and support such a diverse, talented, and committed group. It is a feeling of pride and joy I can’t describe.

ACGME: What is the most challenging part of being a coordinator?

Popovic: The program coordinator role has significantly evolved over the past five to 10 years. I would say that the most challenging part is staying ahead of the ever-changing regulatory requirements and trying to effectively manage various programs while making sure that all trainees have an outstanding educational experience.

ACGME: What advice do you have to brand-new coordinators who are just starting their careers?

Popovic: My advice is:

  • Give yourself time to learn and understand; it takes one year to see the annual cycle of a GME program and two years to fully understand it.
  • Understand accreditation, board, and institutional requirements, including state and federal regulations.
  • Be supportive of your program director.
  • Maintain a close working relationship with the GME office.
  • Know when you need help and ask the program director, GME office, or ACGME for guidance.
  • Plan ahead and know what's coming next—it will eliminate surprises and reduce stress.
  • Find support for yourself, including mentors within your institution and your clinical specialty.
  • Remain flexible and continually adapt to change.
  • Lastly, please remember—you are vital to the success of your residency/fellowship program.

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

Popovic: I would like to share this award with my amazing, hardworking, and passionate colleagues in the BUMC Neurology Department and in GME who share my dedication to the mission and values of BUMC.