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, which took place virtually February 24-26.
2021 Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Awardee David A. Wininger, MD is the internal medicine residency program director at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He specializes in infectious disease.
ACGME: How did you become involved in medicine, and in academic medicine specifically?
Wininger: I cleaned up after a veterinary pathologist performed necropsies (like autopsies on animals) on sick farm animals while in high school at a branch lab of Purdue University. I was completely disinterested, but there was a passion the pathologist had for making the diagnosis that may have invaded my subconscious.
ACGME: What does receiving this award mean to you?
Wininger: An unexpected and high honor, and most touching to me was the work my educational teammates invested to support my nomination.
ACGME: What do you feel is the most important job the program director has?
Wininger: Caring about each learner while also feeling compelled to speak the truth about the competence of each one.
ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Wininger: Whenever I hear a (positive) story from a patient or student of one of our program graduates.
ACGME: What is the most challenging?
Wininger: Hearing old complaints or old suggestions for improvement with an open mind.
ACGME: What advice do you have to residents or fellows who may be interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine?
Wininger: Assume there is room for you if that is where you want to be—it is not that exclusive of a club, and there is some work you may particularly enjoy that others will be thrilled you are willing to take on.
ACGME: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Wininger: If you are happy and contributing as a program director don’t be talked into taking a position higher on the chain of command unless you are convinced that is a better spot for you. Maybe you are already at the pinnacle.