Honoring Excellence: Q and A with Becky Blankenburg, MD, MPH and Pat Poitevien, MD, MSc of the APPD

February 28, 2023
APPD Confronting Racism Action Team
Becky Blankenburg, MD, MPH
Pat Poitevien, MD, MSc

This interview is one in a series of interviews with recipients of the 2023 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 in Nashville, Tennessee February 23-25, 2023.

The Association of Pediatric Program Directors (APPD), based in McLean, Virginia, is recognized with the 2023 Barbara Ross-Lee, DO Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award. Dr. Becky Blankenburg is APPD past president and chair of the Confronting Racism Action Team, and Dr. Pat Poitevien is the APPD’s current president. Both answered the ACGME’s questions about the initiative and the organization’s efforts to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.


ACGME: Tell us a little bit about your organization.

Drs. Blankenburg and Poitevien: The APPD is an organization of 4,200 members, representing educational leaders for 211 pediatric residency programs and 900 pediatric fellowship programs. Our vision is: Exemplary pediatric education. And our mission is: To ensure the health and well-being of all children, we serve pediatric programs by leading the advancement of medical education, the development of a diverse workforce, the cultivation of an inclusive clinical learning environment, and promotion of educational innovation and research. We see our role in APPD as one of supporting our members so they can support their residents and fellows as they learn and take care of children, families, and communities.

ACGME: Why is your organization so dedicated to the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion? 

Blankenburg and Poitevien: We see the work we do as pediatric residency and fellowship leaders as ultimately impacting the children, families, and communities we serve. Studies have shown that having a more diverse workforce will lead to better patient care for all patients. Meanwhile, we are worried that our pediatric practitioners do not currently reflect the diversity of our population. We also know that our current medical system reflects the structural and systemic racism of our country and that there are opportunities to make a more inclusive learning environment for our students, residents, fellows, and faculty and staff members.

ACGME: What work/initiative are you specifically being recognized for?

Blankenburg and Poitevien: We are being recognized for the work of our APPD Confronting Racism Action Team, [underrepresented in medicine] UIM in GME Learning Community, LGBTQ+ Learning Community, and Community Health and Advocacy Learning Community.

The Confronting Racism Action Team represents 10 pediatric organizations and 50 individuals, and has 16 active subcommittees, within these four main areas:

(1) Actively dismantling racism in our organization, institutions, and programs

(2) Creating a more inclusive learning environment

(3) Improving the UIM pathways into medicine

(4) Developing more equitable health care and health outcomes for our patients and communities

More information can be found at: https://www.appd.org/about/confronting-racism/.

ACGME: Can you explain what that work/initiative looks like?

Blankenburg and Poitevien: One area of focus of our APPD Confronting Racism Action Team, which was our ACGME Equity MattersTM project (also part of the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs 2025 Workforce Initiative) was to further improve the UIM mentoring pathway into medicine. APPD and the Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics (COMSEP, our undergraduate medical education (UME) counterpart) have partnered with 30 organizations and more than 150 individuals to build stronger pathways into medicine, from early childhood through faculty. APPD and COMSEP have led two national summits (Summit for UIM Pathways for Mentoring Elementary School through College Students and UIM Pathways for Mentoring Medical Students through Faculty) and participated in a third summit focused on UIM physician scientists to identify and implement both local and national solutions to improve the diversity of our workforce.

As part of this work, APPD is developing a list of best practices and metrics for supporting and measuring the impact of UIM mentoring and sponsoring programs. Furthermore, APPD has developed an interactive map for identifying and characterizing UIM mentoring programs across the continuum of education and across the country. This map is available to students, parents, school counselors and teachers, UME and GME educational leaders, and others who are dedicated to helping connect UIM students, residents, fellows, and faculty members with robust mentoring programs. https://www.appd.org/about/urimmap/

ACGME: How has this work/initiative helped make your organization more diverse and/or inclusive? 

Blankenburg and Poitevien: This initiative has helped make our organization more diverse and inclusive by not only building more robust pathways into pediatrics, but also by building better mentoring and leadership programs for our UIM members once they are in pediatrics. We have also built anti-racism curricula for residents, fellows, faculty members, and educational leaders, with the goal of developing more inclusive learning environments.

In terms of retention, APPD has developed and funded four novel mentoring programs to support our UIM members: (1) Advancing Inclusiveness in Medical Education Scholars (AIMS), for UIM pediatric residents interested in medical education; (2) UIM Chief Residents Mentoring Program; (3) Fostering Underrepresented in Medicine Educational Leaders (FUEL), for UIM junior faculty interested in medical education; and (4) UIM Coordinators Mentorship Program.

AIMS is a one-year mentorship program for pediatrics residents interested in medical education, which pairs longitudinal mentorship with career development. Sixteen UIM pediatrics residents are selected each year and funded to attend our spring APPD conference in person, and then have virtual sessions throughout the following year to support their career development, as well as one-on-one mentorship. (Yemane L, Omoruyi E, Poitevien P, Blankenburg R. Advancing Inclusiveness in Medical Education Scholars Program. JGME, June 2022.)

The UIM Chief Residents Mentorship Program is a one-year peer mentorship program for UIM Chief Residents, which also begins at the spring APPD conference in person and continues through the year virtually.

FUEL is a new program (modeled after AIMS) that arose following a needs assessment of our members that highlighted the need to support UIM junior faculty members nationally. It is a one-year mentorship program for UIM junior faculty members who are interested in medical education, which funds them to attend our spring APPD conference in person, and then have virtual sessions for career development and one-on-one mentorship.

The UIM Coordinators Mentoring Program is a unique program focused on the mentoring needs of our coordinators.

In each of these mentoring programs, we have been careful to support the UIM mentors with career development opportunities as well.

ACGME: How could others use your work/initiative as a model to become more diverse and inclusive? What advice would you give to leaders who are looking to do just that, but aren’t sure how to start? 

Blankenburg and Poitevien: Our areas of focus can be helpful to others trying to build comprehensive DEI and anti-racism programs:

(1) Actively dismantling racism in one's organization, institutions, and programs

(2) Creating a more inclusive learning environment

(3) Improving the UIM pathways into medicine

(4) Developing more equitable health care and health outcomes for our patients and communities

Additional lessons learned:

  • Building a more diverse and inclusive workforce takes investment of time, energy, and financial resources.
  • Need both those with lived and learned experiences doing the work.
  • Power in working together across programs and organizations.
  • Important to have warm hand-offs across UIM mentoring programs.
  • Critical to develop processes for sustainability.
  • Need both local and national solutions.

ACGME: Is there anything you would like to add? 

Blankenburg and Poitevien: We think this quote from one of our APPD AIM Scholars helps remind us of the importance of this work: “It's so important to have role models and see people who look like you doing exactly what you envision yourself doing. Academic medicine can be a scary place for [UIM] physicians but seeing so much community support and open dialogue about diversifying medical education has truly made me excited to become more involved in academic medicine. Having a mentor to discuss my career goals with and provide me with advice and guidance is incredible.” (AIM Scholar 2021)


Learn more about the ACGME’s Barbara Ross-Lee, DO Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award and nominate a deserving Sponsoring Institution, program, or organization for the 2024 Award – nominations are due by March 15, 2023.