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 GME Institutional Coordinator Excellence Awardee Leslie Caulder, MSML, C-TAGME, is the director, education and training programs, in the GME office at the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville.
ACGME: How did you become involved in academic medicine?
Caulder: GME found me. In November 1999, I worked for an HMO [health maintenance organization] company as an in-house provider relations representative. The company closed and as I started looking for a new job, I realized I wanted to stay in a medically related field. I felt my previous experience with provider relations would benefit me and my future employer. I applied for and was offered a position as an administrative assistant to a director in one of the University Medical Center’s family medicine clinics. The clinic was staffed by the ACGME-accredited family medicine residency program’s residents and faculty members. I worked with the residency program director and staff members on various assignments such as the clinic schedule. When a position opened up in the residency office, I was approached and asked to apply. I was hired and started my journey in graduate medical education in October 2000. Then in 2002, a position became available in the DIO’s [designated institutional official’s] office. I was asked to consider the position, which I wholeheartedly did. I started my journey as an institutional program assistant in 2003.
ACGME: What does this award mean to you?
Caulder: Receiving this award is an incredible acknowledgement of the years and effort I’ve put into learning GME. I am honored and humbled to be selected out of so many deserving nominees.
ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of being a coordinator?
Caulder: Working in medical education is an extremely rewarding career. I am involved with a profession that impacts our world today, tomorrow, and into the future. Of course, I am not a doctor. But my value to the profession is just as important. Without interprofessional collaboration and work effort, GME would not be what it is today. Knowledgeable GME professionals are not made in a year or even two. It takes time to learn and fully acclimate to the changing accreditation requirements, as well as all the other functions for which we are responsible: NRMP [National Residency Match Program], ERAS [Electronic Residency Application Service], IRIS [Intern and Resident Information System], CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services], federal and state reporting, licensing, etc.
ACGME: What is the most challenging part of being a coordinator?
Caulder: The most challenging part of GME is also the most rewarding. One does not do the same thing every day. By the time a process is fine-tuned, the requirement may change, leading to a new process. This ebb and flow of medical education keeps us on our toes, requires personal growth and development. The second most challenging part of GME is coordinator attrition, as it has a huge impact on programs and the institution. Recruiting a seasoned GME coordinator can be challenging.
ACGME: What advice do you have to brand-new coordinators who are just starting their careers?
Caulder: Becoming an expert in GME requires you to dive in headfirst, to be responsible for your own development, and to be willing to ask questions to learn and grown professionally. We don’t know what we don’t know, but that’s no excuse to push off one’s own professional development onto someone else in the program or the GME office. Ways to enhance and expedite the learning curve include:
ACGME: Is there anything else you would like to add I haven’t asked about?
Caulder: Working in graduate medical education is not for sissies. It is a very complex and requires a broad fund of knowledge. When asked what I do every day, I responded, “I make amazing happen.” It is no doubt why certain personality types adapt more readily to the many facets of GME. Program directors and DIOs that have knowledgeable staff members are very fortunate indeed.
Learn more about the ACGME’s GME Institutional Coordinator Excellence Award and nominate a deserving individual for the 2024 Award – nominations are due by March 15, 2023.