Honoring Excellence: Q and A with Elias Traboulsi, MD

16 February 2023

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 February 23-25, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

2023 John C. Gienapp Awardee Dr. Elias Traboulsi works at the Cleveland Clinic in many roles. He is the program director for the fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus, the vice-chairman for education, and the director for medical student education at the Cole Eye Institute; the co-director if the Office of Interprofessional Learning at the clinic’s Education Institute. He has previously served as residency program director for ophthalmology and as the director, GME and designated institutional official (DIO) for Cleveland Clinic. He specializes in pediatric ophthalmology and ophthalmic genetics.


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

Dr. Traboulsi: My love of the biological sciences and my upbringing as a servant to the community made medicine a natural choice. I excelled in school, so I was able to compete for and enter medical school at the American University of Beirut. My father was a master educator, and he was a critical role model for my continuous involvement in teaching others since my medical school and residency years. I actually organized my first big conference as a resident in ophthalmology on "Genetic Diseases in Lebanon" in 1985. I have continuously been involved in clinical practice, education, and research in my fields or pediatric ophthalmology and genetics, first at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins and then at the Cole Eye Institute at Cleveland Clinic since 1997. I was very fortunate to have been supported and promoted by a number of individuals at different stages of my career. They have facilitated my access to positions that allowed me to do my work effectively. I will always be grateful for their mentorship and encouragement.

ACGME: How do you feel about receiving the Gienapp Award?

Dr. Traboulsi: I was extremely surprised as I imagined there would be so many other more deserving individuals. I was nonetheless thrilled to receive this honor, which relayed to me a clear message that my work in graduate medical education was recognized.

ACGME: What do you think is one of your greatest contributions to GME?

Dr. Traboulsi: I feel that in my different roles over the last three decades I brought faculty members, administrators, residents, fellows, and organizations together, and facilitated a number of projects geared towards the improvement of the education of young physicians, ultimately improving clinical care and advancing the medical sciences. My work in [the ACGME's] Pursuing Excellence in Clinical Learning Environments [initiative] and what I have learned from my colleagues in other institutions has been transformative. 

ACGME: You have had the opportunity to learn and practice medicine both within and outside of the US. How has that experience informed and enhanced not only your clinical practice, but also your approach to teaching others in academic medicine?

Dr. Traboulsi: My international experience both as a learner and as a teacher has provided me with an appreciation for the varied educational needs and social determinants of health in a few countries. We are now in a connected world in which education is better streamlined and the transmission and exchange of knowledge is easier done than in the past. We continue to struggle with the application of this knowledge to the provision of equitable health care across our country and internationally.

ACGME: How many times have you attended the ACGME Annual Educational Conference, and what has been the most meaningful part for you?

Dr. Traboulsi: I have attended the conference several times in my roles as residency program director and as DIO. Connecting with colleagues who share the same passion for education from across the US and the world has been the most meaningful part. I have never had any difficulties finding a wide array of educational opportunities from the courses offered at the conference.


Learn more about the ACGME’s John C. Gienapp Award and nominate a deserving individual for the 2024 Award – nominations are due by March 15, 2023.