Honoring Excellence: Q and A with Joshua Broder, MD

14 March 2022
2022 ACGME Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Awardee Josh Broder, MD
The Duke Emergency Medicine program's mission pin (image courtesy of Josh Broder, MD)
A rainbow over the Duke Emergency Department (photo courtesy of Josh Broder, MD)
An essay on becoming a doctor by a young Dr. Broder (courtesy of Josh Broder, MD)

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. Josh Broder is the program director for emergency medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.

How did you become involved in medicine, and in academic medicine specifically?

Dr. Broder: Entering medicine wasn’t a forgone conclusion for me, although I had the benefit of parents in health care and the sciences. Medicine provided me the opportunity to engage with and serve other people. I chose academics anticipating that I would enjoy teaching. There I was right, but I’ve been fortunate to discover so much more. The academic environment has given me the opportunity to learn from so many others, to explore areas I had never even considered, to grow as a physician, to collaborate with experts in other fields, and to recognize the importance of diversity.

ACGME: Can you tell us a little bit about your program?

Dr. Broder: I feel so fortunate to practice medicine at Duke. Our clinical environment provides me the opportunity to engage with and serve patients in need. Working with residents and fellows, I find that I learn as much as I teach.

ACGME: What does this award mean to you?

Broder: This came as such a surprise. I definitely feel inspired to work harder than ever so that someday I might deserve such a recognition.

ACGME: What do you feel is the most important job the program director has?

Broder: I want residents to find joy in medicine, to push themselves to achieve their full potential, and to make a difference in the world. Years ago, I was struck by the words of John F. Kennedy, who laid out a vision for human space exploration saying, “We choose to go to the Moon… not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win….”  This has become a metaphor in our program, with each of us defining our own personal moonshot.

ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Broder: Over the years I’ve made many mistakes, but these have been learning opportunities and a rich source to draw upon in helping residents to find their way when they encounter adversity. Experiencing a negative patient outcome for the first time can make any of us question our capabilities and career path. While these conversations are often difficult, it’s rewarding to help residents to get back on their feet, believe in themselves, and go forward.

ACGME: What is the most challenging?

Broder: Even before the COVID pandemic, physicians faced burnout, loss of a sense of purpose, and the loss of empathy for patients. I’ve gone through this myself and want to help others recover their love of service and their curiosity for all the wonders that medicine offers. Emergency physicians often count their victories based on critical saves, but I think it’s important for us to realize that our work matters for every patient. Having been a patient myself, I know the crucial value of doctors who listen, reassure, and truly care. I try to remind myself and the residents I work with that there is no mundane medical complaint and no lack of opportunity to do good for others. 

ACGME: What advice do you have for residents or fellows who may be interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine?

Broder: Academic medicine is an incredibly rewarding career path, full of opportunities to evolve, explore, and challenge oneself. Early in my career I received great advice from a mentor who suggested finding a focus area. While I agree with this wisdom, I’d also offer residents and fellows that they should give themselves the freedom to discover their passions and to change course to follow their inspiration. Even at this point my career, I hope that I’ll be doing something innovative and unexpected in the years ahead.

ACGME: Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven’t asked about?

Broder: I read a lot of personal statements from applicants to our training program. I tell them that they should keep these and read them often – put them on their refrigerator door or nightstand – as they are essential declarations of their values and aspirations. Medicine isn’t always easy, but it is a calling worth every bit of effort and sacrifice. 

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.