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.
2021 Debra L. Dooley GME Program Coordinator Excellence Awardee Sharon M. Ashley is the senior residency program coordinator for emergency medicine at Emory University.
ACGME: How did you become involved in academic medicine?
Ashley: I became involved in academic medicine when I selected an administrative internship at Emory University over 30 years ago. I selected Emory University due to its national prestige and commitment to education in Atlanta. I started as a billing coordinator but quickly became interested and involved in residency program administration.
ACGME: What does this award mean to you?
Ashley: This award is the most prestigious award I could receive during my career in academic/graduate medical education. It recognized my achievements and dedication to my mission to the residency program, Emory University, and the residents.
ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of being a coordinator?
Ashley: The most rewarding part of being a coordinator is seeing the graduates succeed in their careers in whatever path they choose. Our graduates have prominent careers in global and academic medicine, hospital administration and even entertainment. We have invited graduates to speak at our annual residency retreat for over 20 years. I take pride in knowing I have had even a small part in helping them with their achievements.
ACGME: What is the most challenging part of being a coordinator?
Ashley: The most challenging part of being a coordinator is keeping up with the "administrative" tasks of the residents such tracking immunizations and certifications, as well as sending the nonstop reminders.
ACGME: What advice do you have to brand-new coordinators who are just starting their careers?
Ashley: I have mentored four or five new coordinators in their careers. My advice to them has always been relax, create a timeline, and ask for help and support.
ACGME: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Ashley: Being a coordinator can feel like a thankless role in graduate medical education. I strive to recognize minor accomplishments to keep me going. My happiest moments are when a resident or graduate remind me that I was instrumental in the completion of one of the major accomplishments of their life.