President's Message

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Teaching the Teachers

September 2014
Thomas Ferkol, MD, MD

Thomas Ferkol, MD

As the son of a teacher, I must admit that I bristle whenever I hear the maxim, “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.” Nothing can be further than the truth.

Clinician-educators are vital to the mission of the American Thoracic Society. Odds are that it was an instructor in the classroom or medical educator at the bedside who inspired you and influenced your career choice. These role models teach tomorrow’s leaders and define the course of the next generation of physicians and allied health professionals in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. And within the Society, they are growing in numbers: nearly a quarter of our members identify themselves as educators.

By definition, clinician-educators are exceptional clinicians and dedicated teachers. Indeed, their teaching skills separate them from other faculty. Many understand educational philosophies, theories, and practice, but they can also teach students clinical skills at the bedside. Still, the time and effort expended by educators is frequently underestimated, and their needs are unique.

To support this core group of members, the Society has several programs in place, and with the help of our members, we are developing even more initiatives.

The ATS Medical Education Working Group, a working group within the Assembly on Behavioral Science and Health Services Research, is building a home for all ATS members who teach. During the ATS 2014 International Conference in San Diego, the working group hosted 100 attendees during a luncheon for medical educators, and its members have spoken separately on the pedagogical topics including how to teach on rounds and in small-group settings. Formed in 2011, the working group is petitioning to become a section of the Society and will present a proposal describing its activities when the ATS Board of Directors meets in October.

Medical education has become increasingly complicated with changes in residency and fellowship training requirements, especially with the evolution of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) requirements and emergence of the Next Accreditation System. To assist program directors, the ATS provides forums where training program directors across subspecialties can meet, and the Training Committee provides resources such as the Innovations in Fellowship Education 2014 Highlights Book, which showcases novel teaching methods from 16 adult and pediatric fellowship training programs from across the country. Program directors can find more resources and links at our website here.

The Society must afford clinician-educators with academic recognition for their efforts. The ATS Academy will identify promising young clinician-educators who provide exemplary patient care and are devoted to teaching. Many of our assemblies already acknowledge talented educators through awards, and these programs will be expanded, with the awardees representing the Academy’s first class of ATS Educators. Our committees are currently organizing faculty development programs to help our younger members further their careers as educators.

I am proud that the Society recognizes the importance of medical education. There are very few natural-born teachers. It takes training and experience to become an outstanding educator. We’re lucky to have so many members who can—and do—teach. They are preparing a new generation of subspecialists for the future. Our future.

Last Reviewed: September 2017