Honoring Excellence: Q and A with Debra (Debbie) Kay Stevens

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 GME Debra L. Dooley GME Program Coordinator Excellence Awardee Debra (Debbie) Kay Stevens is the program administrator for internal medicine at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

ACGME: How did you become involved in academic medicine?

Stevens: After working three-and-a-half years in the internal medicine outpatient clinic (which is where my love affair with residents began), I was approached by the division of gastroenterology regarding a vacant administrative assistant position. I accepted this new role, changed locations, and soon realized that the internal medicine residency program was located around the corner from my new office…yes, I still get to see the residents! Four years later, the internal medicine residency coordinator accepted a position and moved to another city. She was coordinator for 12 years and was awesome! While the position was vacant, I was tasked with assisting the residency program a few hours each week. During this time, I made the decision to apply and 20 years later…here I am.

ACGME: What does this award mean to you?

Stevens: I was shocked when I learned that our Office of GME nominated me for the 2021 Debra L. Dooley GME Program Coordinator Excellence Award. Even more shocked when receiving notification that I am one of five recipients of this award. I am very humbled by the letters of support submitted by our DIO [designated institutional official], director of GME, my program director, and residents. I am honored to receive this prestigious award.

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

Stevens: Being a part of the residents’ development throughout their educational program and seeing them graduate is very rewarding to me. I also find it rewarding in being a counselor and confidante to the residents.

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

Stevens: Wearing many hats! Trying to do it all but realizing that you can’t do everything. Remaining positive and being proud of what you have accomplished.

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

Stevens: Understand that it’s going to take time to learn this role. You will get there; be patient with yourself. Reach out to other program coordinators and your GME office as they can provide support, knowledge, and positive reinforcement.