Building Connections, Leading Change

October 10, 2023

The second ACGME National Learning Community of Sponsoring Institutions convened September 19-20, 2023 with an impressive lineup of speakers and sessions designed to address the evolving landscape of graduate medical education (GME) and health care leadership for institutions. The meeting, which is themed “Building Connections, Leading Change,” included a focus on the objectives of the ACGME’s Sponsoring Institution 2025 (SI2025) initiative, which is structured to advance three pillars and associated domains:

  • Transforming Education through GME Innovation
    • Optimizing Health Systems for Learning
    • Demonstrating Commitment to Excellence in Patient Care

The hybrid meeting allowed the more than 300 in-person and remote attendees to learn and connect with fellow institutional leaders. Participants noted that the meeting provided excellent opportunities for in-depth networking with other institutional leaders.

The opening plenary panel explored the 2023 United States Supreme Court decision on affirmative action in higher education. Dr. Tonya Fancher, associate dean at the University of California, Davis Medical School, highlighted the importance of acknowledging that while talent is distributed randomly, opportunity is not. Her institution's commitment to creating pathway programs for underrepresented communities underscored the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in GME.

ACGME Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Dr. William McDade expanded on the legal aspects of this decision, emphasizing that it only applies to Title VI (students) and not Title VII (employment). This clarification is crucial for understanding how efforts to recruit and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce remain a priority in GME.

The panel made clear that DEI is not an ideal, but a necessity. Dr. Haywood Brown, senior associate vice president for the University of South Florida Health Faculty and Academic Affairs succinctly captured this sentiment with the statement, "Diversity is an asset.” He provided detailed evidence demonstrating that diverse health care practioners lead to improved health care outcomes for patients.

The second plenary discussion on health care administration, leadership, and management fellowships provided valuable insights into the changing landscape of health care leadership. The ACGME recently approved accreditation designation for fellowships in health care administration, leadership, and management, addressing the demand for a competent workforce of physician executives to lead change in health care delivery through the effective administration and management of health systems. The creation of these programs, aimed at producing physician leaders capable of driving change in health care delivery, is a response to evolving health system demands.

A panel of senior physician executive leaders and health care administration, leadership, and management program directors emphasized the need to grow leaders from within the health care system, noting that these fellowships can provide a structured, financially sustainable pathway into organizational leadership that is closely aligned with the organizational culture. By preparing physicians to be effective leaders, panelists emphasized that health care institutions can navigate the complex health care landscape more effectively.

Health care administration, leadership, and management fellowship programs at the Cleveland Clinic and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai were presented, highlighting the importance of teamwork and experiential leadership opportunities in physician leadership development. This approach recognizes that leadership skills are not just about “command and control,” but require collaboration and a deep understanding of organizational culture.

The third plenary focused on the IGNITE Initiative at the University of Chicago, which has demonstrated how resident and nursing engagement in interprofessional performance improvement teams can significantly improve patient care. By connecting residency programs with high-performing nursing units, the institution achieved impressive results—both significant cost savings and improved patient outcomes. The lessons learned from IGNITE can inform new models of GME and clinical learning environment integration to address other critical areas, such as well-being and DEI. The success of IGNITE demonstrates that bringing physicians and nurses together to design and test new processes for communicating can both improve patient care and enhance engagement among health care professionals.

A lively and informative evening reception allowed poster presenters to display and discuss their work with both live and remote attendees. Digital posters were available throughout the meeting in the ACGME’s online learning portal, Learn at ACGME.

Participants reported that the smaller, more intimate size of the sessions offered greater opportunities to ask questions and gain detailed insights into the topics. The focus of the meeting on institutional leaders allowed for significant, in-depth collaboration among participants and presenters.

At the final session, an open forum “Town Hall,” a panel including Cynthia Kelley, DO, FAAFP, Chair, ACGME Institutional Review Committee and ACGME leaders responded to multiple questions, including a focus on clarifying the ACGME’s processes regarding complaints.

After two rich days of connecting and learning, the 2023 National Learning Community of Sponsoring Institutions meeting proved to be an important forum for discussing the transformative changes happening in GME and health care leadership. From the imperative of DEI in medical education, to the development of physician leaders in health care administration and the power of interdisciplinary collaboration, the meeting provided a wealth of insights and strategies for building a brighter future for health care.

Visit the meeting web page for information on future events.