This interview is one in a series of interviews with recipients of the 2022 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 ACGME Annual Educational Conference, taking place virtually March 30-April 1, 2022.
2022 Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Awardee Dr. Heather L. Burrows is the program director for pediatrics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
ACGME: How did you become involved in medicine, and in academic medicine specifically?
Dr. Burrows: I have been interested in science since high school. I was very involved in research throughout my undergraduate degree and completed an MD/PHD. Although I no longer am involved in basic science research, I have appreciated the wide variety of roles that I can play in academic medicine. I enjoy asking questions about how we can continue to provide better and better care to patients. I have enjoyed teaching since my time in medical school and academic medicine gives me the chance to work with learners at all levels, which means that I am making a difference in the care of patients for years to come.
ACGME: What does this award mean to you?
Burrows: This award came as a complete surprise. I truly love what I get to do and ensuring that our residents are supported as they learn and grow through their training is incredibly important to me. Being recognized for this work is has been very empowering.
ACGME: What do you feel is the most important job the program director has?
Burrows: My most important job is really to the future of pediatrics – to ensure that our residents are going to be able to take wonderful care of their patients and allow these patients to have the best quality of life possible. This means that the residents need to be able to absorb their education which also means supporting the trainees to have a good quality of life.
ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Burrows: Watching trainees develop their skills and confidence and their ability to support and teach each other.
ACGME: What is the most challenging?
Burrows: The most challenging part of my role is balancing the various needs of all our residents.
ACGME: What advice do you have to residents or fellows who may be interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine?
Burrows: I think this is really the best possible career. You have so many different hats you can wear over your career and the ability to change your focus over time so that you really can remain engaged and excited in your work is very powerful. I am never bored. I have made friends all over the world and really feel that my work has purpose.
Learn more about the ACGME’s Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award and nominate a deserving program director for the 2023 Award – nominations are due by April 6, 2022.