Honoring Excellence: Q and A with Richard G. Ellenbogen, MD, FACS

13 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 on February 23-25, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

2023 Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Awardee Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen is the program director and department chair for neurological surgery at the University of Washington.


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

Ellenbogen: I trained at an academically oriented neurological surgery residency program in Boston. Post residency, as a military physician, I was drawn to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to follow my dreams of teaching, research, and clinical care.

ACGME: What does this award mean to you? 

Ellenbogen: This is my favorite accolade, period! This award is an acknowledgement of the commitment, sacrifice, and passion one needs to dedicate to training the next generation. I am most appreciative to the students, residents, and fellow faculty who I worked with and who should share this award with me. 

ACGME: What do you feel is the most important job the program director has?

Ellenbogen: The program director’s most important job is to create a unique culture of discovery, intellectual rigor, kindness, tolerance, and fun.

ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Ellenbogen: The most rewarding part of my job is making patients’ lives better by teaching my students how to be selfless, skilled, and loving.

ACGME: What is the most challenging? 

Ellenbogen: The most challenging part of the job is remediation of unprofessional or non-constructive behavior.

ACGME: What advice do you have to residents or fellows who may be interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine?

Ellenbogen: Just do it!

ACGME: Is there anything else you would like to add I haven’t asked about?

Ellenbogen: Live by the Platinum Rule as a residency director and physician: treat each student and each patient the way they want to be treated.


Learn more about the ACGME’s Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award and nominate a deserving program director for the 2024 Award – nominations are due by March 15, 2023.