Successfully run residency programs are key to fulfilling the UC College of Medicine’s education mission. In this interview, Rose Alden, residency and fellowship coordinator for the UC Department of Radiology, reflects on her 23 years working in medical education and why she enjoys the unique challenges of the role.
What is your typical day like?
"A typical day for a program coordinator can be very atypical. I think what coordinators like most about their jobs is the unpredictable nature of it. I can plan my day as I drive into work, but when I get here, there’s always something unexpected that needs to be taken care of first thing. Even though much of what we do is very cyclical—every year at the same time we do the same thing—it’s never really the same. There’s always something different that challenges us or satisfies us."
What is the most challenging or rewarding part of your job?
"One of the most rewarding aspects is working with the residents and fellows and participating in their education and training. They are such a great group of people. I also enjoy mentoring new coordinators in their new positions. This is not a job that can be learned in a month or two. It takes at least one year-long cycle to be exposed to all aspects of the job and another year to put into practice what you’ve learned so far."
"One of the most challenging parts of the job is preparing for an accreditation site visit. It is the most stressful time for a coordinator and a coordinator doesn’t really earn her/his stripes as a coordinator until she/he has gone through a site visit. But, when it’s all over, I think most of us feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment in our part of the accreditation process, especially when the program is awarded full accreditation."
Is there something unexpected about your responsibilities that people may not know?
"Many people do not understand exactly what a residency program coordinator/manager is or what we do. For years, we’ve been viewed as ‘glorified secretaries’ and that is far from reality. We are the face of the training program—the person the program director depends upon the most to ensure that the program runs smoothly every day, and the person the residents turn to for everything.
"It is a struggle for coordinators across the country to be recognized as managers and not as part of the clerical staff. The changes in graduate medical education instituted by the ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) over the past 20 years have had a significant impact on our roles. Our responsibilities have increased and require us to have a higher level of skills, ability and knowledge that elevates us from secretary to professional manager/administrator. We have to be constantly aware of all changes in program requirements and institutional policies, and upcoming deadlines. We serve on departmental and graduate medical education committees and develop program policies. We attend professional development conferences. We have to be able to work independently. One way we are slowly changing how coordinators are viewed is the certification process called TAGME—Training Administrators in Graduate Medical Education. This process assesses our knowledge of graduate medical education and acknowledges our expertise and ability to successfully and effectively manage residency training programs. I recently went through the certification process and I am only one of 14 radiology coordinators in the country and five coordinators here at UC to be TAGME certified. It is a huge accomplishment, something I am very proud of, and I encourage my fellow coordinators reading this to also go for it! Another achievement I am proud of is receiving the Emergency Medicine Residents Association Residency Coordinator of the Year award in 2003."
After the yearlong process of recruiting and interviewing potential candidates is complete, how do you feel when that new class of residents walks through the doors?
"July 1 is always an exciting time of year. I have seen many classes of new residents come in just a little scared and nervous, wondering if they can look at a black spot on an X-ray and correctly diagnose it or deliver that baby that wants to come out feet first, and then watch them develop over the next four years into confident and competent physicians."
Did you ever see yourself in this role?
"When I started at UC in 1978, I had no idea what a residency coordinator was. In the late 1980s I joined the obstetrics and gynecology department as medical student coordinator and transitioned to residency program coordinator. I immediately fell in love with the diversity of the job, the autonomy it offers and the challenges that test my skills as a program manager on a daily basis. I must say, in all my years as program coordinator, I have never been bored. Over the past 23 years, I have also coordinated the emergency medicine residency program, sleep medicine fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and now the radiology residency and fellowship programs. There is no training for residency program coordinators. You learn it all on the job as you go along and with the help of fellow coordinators and the graduate medical education office."