What attracted you to working in academic medicine?
As a young person, I was drawn to teaching, psychology, and mathematics. I ended up studying engineering and then going to medical school. I think that my career has almost always, in part, been an experience seen through the lens of those early interests.
A moment of clarification came for me when I spent a year or so in community practice. It was a great experience in many ways, but I realized, by its absence, how much the academic setting mattered to me. The energy of learners and mentors of various specialties and disciplines, the valuation of learning, the discovery of knowledge, and the innovation of an academic center create a palpable force that sustains me and to which I hope that I make contributions.
What made you decide to call UVA your home?
The UVA Department of Anesthesiology is legendary. It has a reputation for producing fantastic clinicians and researchers and I remember as a resident hearing it referred to as the “cradle of chairs” nationally. There was a shortage of academic anesthesiologists in the late 90’s, and I had the flattering luck of being recruited by the big names in academic anesthesiology. Ironically, UVA was not particularly interested. A friend did wrangle an invitation for me to give a lecture and meet some of the faculty and they eventually warmed to me. A little.
Conversely, I immediately fell in love with the department, the hospital, the school and the community. A defining moment occurred during a visit when I witnessed a physician (with whom I would later spend many hours in the OR), stop his conversation with a bevy of residents and students to assist a distressed visitor in finding their loved one in the PACU. The gratitude and relief of the elderly woman spoke to me about the values of this institution.
When I did start working here in ’99, it was with the caveat to not expect to have any of the roles of my previous institution (residency director, liver transplant anesthesia, cardiothoracic anesthesia.) I decided it was better to be here with a different career than somewhere else albeit in my comfort zone- although I was actually back in my old roles within a year.
There is an important back story. My incredible spouse of now 40+ years had fallen in love with Charlottesville many years before. As an amazing novelist, she was drawn to the local writing community as well as this wonderful place in general. She demonstrated her own skills as an educator by allowing me to believe that I had come to the decision myself.
I have been so fortunate in my time at UVA. Being part of the Educational Task Force that developed the NexGen Curriculum, a member of the workgroup that designed the Medical Education Building, and now an Assistant Dean helping to bring this all to life has been an extraordinary honor.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Practically everything: The substance, capabilities and devotion to excellence of the learners and peers with whom I work every day. Watching novices become experts with a wonderful combination of accomplishment and humility. Mentoring superstars that go on to international recognition and success. Working with a struggling student that guts it out and reaches their dream despite any number of hurdles that would defeat many. Seeing our students match into top residencies and our residents recruited by the premiere fellowships. The self-discovery that occurs in the pursuit of educational excellence. Honestly, the opportunity to explore some really fun technology with innovators from around the world.
Perhaps the most fulfilling aspect is the belief that what we do here improves the lives of patients cared for by our students and trainees when they go out to practice across the country and the world.
What interests do you have in educational research and scholarship?
I am fascinated by the world of educational and cognitive psychology. I hope that the final chapters in my career help healthcare providers to better understand how they think and learn. We need to be true life-long students, but with greater efficiency. We also need to understand the limitations and opportunities of our neurocognitive architecture as we function in increasingly complex and stressful environments.
How would you summarize your philosophy of teaching?
There should be some fun to help learners engage, feel safe and become less guarded. There should be seriousness about our sacred obligation to patients to be our best. The mentor should seek out the needs of the learner rather than preening their own expertise. Healthcare educators should seek out and value the practices of educational experts with the recognition that we are not always on the leading edge of innovation. We should, with our learners, celebrate the work that we collectively do to make the world better.
How do you spend your free time outside of work?
I like to hike, kayak, and mountain bike- although I have given up the mountain biking after a few misadventures worried the people that care about me. I love to spend time with my wife, ‘kids’ and grandchildren in our home, at a brewery for brunch, or on a trip. In non-pandemic times, I traveled on a nearly monthly basis to meetings or other institutions and really relished the opportunity to visit art museums and landmarks as well as walk unfamiliar streets.
What advice would you give to a new faculty member getting involved in education in the UVA SOM?
Identify role models (and perhaps anti-role models) and think about what they are doing that seems to work. Engage them and learn about their path and values. (Educators tend to be incredibly enthusiastic and generous people- most will want to help.) “Try on” some roles and techniques and approaches to find your true interests and ways of teaching. Early on, never say no to an opportunity to publish, teach, or help create a program. Have the conversation with your chair about your aspirations and how these will fit with your department’s needs and how they can be supported.
What do you look forward to about the new Academy?
Within the Academy’s mission statement, the phrase “…aims to build an inclusive learning community of educators…” resonates for me. Beyond the concept that educators are really learners at a different place in their journey, I also hear a harsh reality. Our school, and university, needs to take an unflinching stock of its history and current state. We need to do better in achieving diversity of faculty, learners, and thinking. In my time here, I think that we are moving from the concept of diversity as a pleasant goal when convenient, to a necessity for success and justice. I hope that the Academy furthers that process through authentic discussion and action by forward thinking, exceptional educators.