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 will be honored at the ACGME Annual Educational Conference, taking place on February 23-25, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.
2023 David C. Leach Awardee Dr. David Ray Velez is a PGY-5 resident in surgery at the University of North Dakota.
ACGME: Why did you want to become a physician?
Dr. Velez: I feel lucky in that my path has always seemed clear. I have wanted to be a physician since I was a child and have specifically wanted to be a surgeon from the first time I stepped into an operating room during my undergraduate. It was during my first year of medical school that I spent a summer working with the trauma and critical care team and realized where I would ultimately land. Although I have kept an open mind, next year I will be returning to my old medical school to start a fellowship in acute care surgery at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Medicine is unparalleled in its challenge and complexity. It is thought provoking and demanding, producing some of the greatest teachers. There are few fields that allow such a unique educational environment in the training of the next generation while serving others. I cannot imagine doing anything else.
ACGME: What, so far, has been the most rewarding part of your residency?
Dr. Velez: The most rewarding part of residency has been the patient care. It is amazing to see so many critically ill patients come into the hospital and have the power to help them overcome and heal. We can salvage severely injured trauma patients; we can remove diseased organs; we can take people on the verge of death in the intensive care unit and save them. What becomes one of the most influential events in a person’s life is a routine day for us. The responsibility and opportunity are incredibly rewarding.
ACGME: What has been the most challenging?
Dr. Velez: One of the most challenging parts of residency is finding balance. Between clinical duties, general studying, preparing for in-training exams, research endeavors, and family life it can be difficult. I feel blessed, though. I have an amazing wife who is beyond supportive. My job can be stressful, but with two children on top of all her other duties, she has by far the more difficult position. I am so grateful for her support and cannot express my gratitude enough.
ACGME: What innovation/improvement did you implement in your program?
Dr. Velez: I created a non-profit educational program called The Operative Review of Surgery (The O.R. for short). It is an online educational resource dedicated to the practice of surgery, available at https://operativereview.com/. It is committed to providing the most effective, up-to-date, and comprehensive material for residents, students, and practicing physicians. There are over 700 surgery reviews in bullet-point format. The content covers all areas of surgery from pancreatic tumors to trauma, and everything in between. It is used by students and residents to rapidly look up a topic while on rounds, while preparing for a case, reviewing for conference, or just for general studying. Over the last year, the site has seen over 8,000 users with over 90,000 page views. It is primarily used throughout the US but has also been used in over 50 countries around the globe.
ACGME: What does it mean to you to receive this award?
Dr. Velez: I am incredibly thankful to receive this award. Thousands of hours have been dedicated to creating content and learning website development. I find enjoyment in the program and consider it a passion project that I will continue to develop throughout my career. Recognition on this level is extraordinarily gratifying. I have received numerous emails and messages from people with kind words and appreciation of the content. The program is nonprofit and will never charge money, so hearing that others appreciate it and find help in the pages makes it all worthwhile.
ACGME: What advice would you give to other residents/fellows who are looking to either replicate your improvement or implement an original idea of their own in their own program?
Dr. Velez: My best advice to anyone with an idea for a project is to just do it. There are always a million reasons to not do something and there will always be other duties trying to pull you in different directions. But if you have a passion, follow it. I dedicated way more time and energy to this project than I ever expected, but hearing how much it has helped some people has absolutely been worth it.
Learn more about the ACGME’s David C. Leach Award and nominate a deserving individual for the 2024 Award – nominations are due by March 15, 2023.