This interview is one in a series of interviews with recipients of the 2021 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 were honored at the ACGME Annual Educational Conference February 24-26, 2021.
2021 David C. Leach Awardee Lt. Guen Hunt, MD, is a chief resident in the Medical Corps in the US Navy at the National Capital Consortium at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, specializing in internal medicine.
ACGME: Why did you want to become a physician?
Hunt: I knew I wanted to be a physician from a young age. I was enamored with the idea of using science and technology to change the course of disease; however, as an adult, I have found a great deal of fulfillment in building relationships with my patients and helping them at vulnerable points in their lives.
ACGME: What, so far, has been the most rewarding part of your residency?
Hunt: I grew up in a family with an extensive military tradition, but residency was the first time I wore a uniform and felt like a member of the uniformed services. I was very nervous at first, but I have found a family in my military community. As I carry a leadership and mentorship role this year, I find that there is no greater privilege than helping prepare our trainee military physicians to be successful internists, fellows, officers and leaders out of residency.
ACGME: What has been the most challenging?
Hunt: Certainly, the 2020-2021 academic year has been filled with challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. By far, the hardest thing has been sending our residents as frontline providers to wards and intensive care units with significant COVID-19 patient loads. There is a constant sense of anxiety and responsibility for their safety in the midst of this dangerous environment. The few times that residents have gotten ill with COVID-19 despite precautions, PPE [personal protective equipment] and best practices have led to some sleepless nights.
ACGME: What innovation/improvement did you implement in your program?
Hunt: My project was to create “Accountable Care Units” throughout our inpatient internal medicine service. We changed our hospital admission system from a system in which one resident team cared for patients in seven different inpatient wards to a system where a resident team works primarily with one inpatient unit and one nursing team, so that there is increased opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration around patient care, stronger working relationships, and improved patient safety and outcomes.
ACGME: What does it mean to you to receive this award?
Hunt: I feel humbled to be recognized for this initiative. It is only successful because of enthusiastic support from my mentors and others throughout the command who saw the value in this project. Effective change in large systems is very difficult, and it was certainly not possible to do it on my own. I hope that Walter Reed serves as an example of multi-disciplinary teams done well and that the model potentially catches on in other military treatment facilities.
ACGME: What advice would you give to other residents/fellows who are looking to either replicate your improvement or implement an original idea of their own in their own program?
Hunt: The key to success for this project was our grassroots approach to building the idea. Because the impact to our hospital was so broad, it was important to collaborate with and get the support from nurses, administrators, and other specialties and disciplines. By the time we presented our idea to hospital leadership to approve our project, most departments were familiar with it, had opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions and were excited about the project. Always identify your stakeholders and build a team with them.
ACGME: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Hunt: I would like to honor Lt. Jeff Gray who listed on this award as a team member. He passed away this fall and did not get to see us receive this honor and recognition. He was an incredible chief resident, physician, and friend, and we would not have been able to accomplish this without his hard work and support.