My Conference Experience: Q and A with Sultana Mustafa, EdD, EdM, MA

April 10, 2023

Dr. Sultana Mustafa serves as the evaluation specialist in the Graduate Medical Education (GME) Office at New York-Presbyterian Hospital (NYPH). In her role, she manages the GME program review process for more than 152 NYPH-sponsored residency and fellowship programs across both Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical Center. She participates in strategic planning in collaboration with the chief academic officer, designated institutional official (DIO), and associate DIOs to outline initiatives, objectives, and outcomes associated with NYPH GME program evaluations and learning assessment. She also collaborates with senior GME leadership in the design, implementation, and evaluation of professional development for residency and fellowship program leaders and faculty members. Dr. Mustafa has attended the ACGME’s Annual Educational Conference five times – thrice in person and twice virtually. We asked her to share her experience at the 2023 conference held in Nashville at the end of February.

ACGME: Can you tell us a little about your background and role in medical education?

Dr. Mustafa: My background is in education and evaluation. I have an EdD in adult learning and leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in medical education at the Cleveland Clinic. My doctoral dissertation focused on medical education, where I studied fourth-year medical students’ experiences selecting and developing scholarly projects and the ways in which they engaged in self-directed learning. As a post-doctoral fellow, I developed expertise in designing, implementing, and evaluating medical education programs. My professional interests in medical education include program evaluation, process improvement, educational research, leadership development, program design, and adult learning.

ACGME: What made you want to come to the Annual Educational Conference this year?

Mustafa: I attended this conference for a number of reasons. First, it is the main educational conference for GME. These conferences allow me to stay apprised of developments and innovations in the field, share our institutional best practices, and connect and reconnect with other members of the GME community. With this in mind, I – along with our GME leadership team – co-presented the workshop “Developing a Successful Special Review Process to Drive Continuous Quality Improvement.” Following the conference, we have had a number of our workshop attendees reach out to us seeking more information about our process.

ACGME: What did you expect from the conference? What were you looking forward to and hoping to get out of coming?

Mustafa: I was looking forward to attending sessions covering topics related to my work in GME in order to stay current on latest developments and learn what other institutions are doing. I hoped to connect and reconnect with members of the GME community, as well as expand my professional network. We were excited to facilitate a workshop on the evolution of our institutional Special Review process, share tools to articulate the implementation of an institutional Special Review process from start to finish, and gain feedback from others in the professional community.

ACGME: How did coming back to an in-person event compare to the virtual conference we held the last two years?

Mustafa: Given the prevailing circumstances at the time, the virtual set-up worked very well over the last two years. I appreciated the efforts made by the conference team to create a virtual conference that realistically simulated an in-person conference. While the previous virtual conferences were effective, this year’s in-person format enabled face-to-face interactions for both presenters and the audience, thus creating a more dynamic networking opportunity and a sense of community beyond my own institution. Irrespective of the conference medium, the conference support team has always been extremely accessible and responsive to the presenters, both before and during the conference.

ACGME: What was your experience like once you got to the conference?

Mustafa: It was seamless from check-in to check-out. My positive experience at the conference was based on a number of factors. The information provided to the attendees in the months leading up to the conference was timely and helpful for making plans to attend. The help desks throughout the conference venue provided one-on-one assistance and information promptly as needed. I also valued browsing the vendor exhibits where I could review materials and talk to vendor representatives. The poster session offered a social space to interact with colleagues from other institutions who shared their best practices. I found the Conference Mobile App to be user-friendly and informative, keeping me organized and apprised of important announcements so I could maximize my days at the conference.

ACGME: Which session(s) had the biggest impact? Why?

Mustafa: When I think of the sessions that were most significant for me, what comes to mind are both the Welcome and Opening Remarks and the President’s Plenary because they set the stage for the conference, highlighted important updates and resources, and renewed my sense of purpose within my own position. Dr. Nasca’s expression of Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “We must become the change we want to see in this world,” resonated with me because it highlights the essence of our work toward continuous improvement. The key points made by Dr. Brigham – "to connect and re-connect, to be reminded of our meaning through mission and purpose, and to be energized and inspired” – reaffirmed my reasons for attending the conference. In fact, these points seemed to be integrated in all aspects of the conference.   

ACGME: What was your greatest takeaway? What was the biggest surprise?

Mustafa: Overall, the conference offered a balanced program that aligned with our needs as we emerged from a virtual format necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic through networking, social, and wellness activities. Whether I was presenting, attending a session, browsing the posters, speaking to vendor representatives, or picking up materials, I felt the energy and excitement of the other conference attendees.

There were a couple of key takeaways from my perspective. The course “Advancing Outcomes-Based Research in Medical Education” that I attended reinforced that measurement of outcomes in medical education is complex and must take into account not just the end result but also how we get there. To achieve this, we need the infrastructure and access to pertinent data and shared understanding of meaningful outcome metrics and indicators. The conference sessions that I attended emphasized the importance of seeking and leveraging input from multiple stakeholders including residents and fellows, faculty members, program directors, program coordinators, and department leadership.

ACGME: Will you come again? Why/Why not?

Mustafa: I definitely plan to return to this conference because it offers a wonderful opportunity for professional development and engagement with the GME community. I have attended the conference in both virtual and in-person formats and always have had a positive experience.

ACGME: The theme of this year’s conference was “Meaning in Medicine: Making a Difference.” Did you feel the presence of this theme at the conference? Where do you find your personal meaning and joy in work?

Mustafa: The theme was evident throughout the conference. The GME community convened in person after working through the numerous challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference provided a space for us to reflect on our experiences, to celebrate accomplishments, and equally importantly, to connect and reconnect with one another, thus inspiring us to continue to make a difference through our work.

I gain personal meaning and joy in my work from supporting those providing direct care to our patients; continuously improving and innovating through reflection, planning, implementation, and evaluation; and working collaboratively with members of the GME Office, program, and hospital stakeholders.

ACGME: Anything else you’d like to share about your Annual Educational Conference experience or about yourself?

Mustafa: I am thankful for the enriching experience provided by the conference, which exceeded my expectations.