This interview is one in a series of interviews with recipients of the 2024 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 March 7-9, 2024, in Orlando, Florida.
Ms. Vicky Lee Norton is a recipient of the 2024 Debra L. Dooley GME Program Coordinator Excellence Award. She currently serves as and Director of Academic Programs for the Department of Orthopaedics where she also serves as the residency coordinator for orthopaedic surgery at the University of Maryland. She reflected on her career as a coordinator and the depth of meaning that this award has for her.
ACGME: How did you become involved in academic medicine?
Ms. Norton: I took a role at the front desk for endocrinology and had a supervisor that trained me using the fellowship program as a model. She believed in me and I am so happy to have taken this role to get involved in this area of medicine.
ACGME: What does this award mean to you?
Norton: The world! This has been the highest honor I could ever have received. It demonstrates that I do know my job, and am actually appreciated for it. My highest achievement up to now has been membership on the ACGME Coordinator Advisory Group. However, the Debra L. Dooley GME Program Coordinator Excellence Award speaks volumes on how much this role is valued within the ACGME and within our GME profession. I am thrilled, to say the least!
ACGME: What is the most rewarding part of being a program coordinator?
Norton: Watching residents come into the program and advance to the career for which they strive.
ACGME: What is the most challenging part of being a program coordinator?
Norton: Being a “silent” part of leadership. We are told we are part of leadership, however, as a coordinator, your voice is not heard in all cases.
ACGME: What advice do you have to brand-new coordinators who are just starting their careers?
Norton: Get involved in your specialty. If they have a coordinator group for your specialty, join it. If not, attend the ACGME Annual Educational Conference. Attend your Sponsoring Institution’s Graduate Medical Education Committee meetings, or if there is a regional meeting for GME, attend it. Find a mentor so you do not feel alone.
ACGME: Is there anything else you wish to add that we haven’t asked?
Norton: One question for which I would love to have a good answer is how to best recruit someone to take your position. Or, how would you best describe your role to encourage others to want to join this profession? For me, and for many in this profession, a college degree does not match what we are doing. However, we can’t move ahead in an academic setting without a degree. Makes sense. It is hard to share what path to take in college that would prepare someone for a GME profession. I am just one of the very lucky people. This path came to me and I enjoyed it from the beginning. And many, many very successful coordinators in GME never had a college degree and truly excel at what they do. They are not always recognized for this work, a challenge for which I don’t have the best answer. However, I know so many coordinators who are fabulous.
Learn more about the ACGME’s Debra L. Dooley GME Program Coordinator Excellence Award and nominate a resident or fellow for the 2025 Award – nominations are due by March 27, 2024. Registration is still open for the 2024 ACGME Annual Educational Conference – learn more and register today on the conference website.