The Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors (AFMRD) is excited to welcome several new program directors. They’ve taken on the program director role, welcomed new residents, and have a few months of work under their belt. Basically, the hard part it is over…right?

Well, not exactly.

We checked in with some of the new program directors to learn about their journey to becoming a program director and what they hope to accomplish in the future. 

Childhood experiences, medical school rotations, fantastic mentors, and the variety and continuity of care are all reasons these doctors chose family medicine.  For Beth Rosemergey, DO, who became program director at the UMKC Community and Family Medicine Residency in March, a childhood accident made her realize family medicine was where she belonged.

Dr. Rosemergey became interested in family medicine as a young child. Her family physician was also her friend’s dad. One day, she cut her eyebrow on the fence at her friend’s pool. Her friend’s mom (also the nurse at the family practice) drove her over to her husband’s office. While he sewed up her eyebrow, the doctor let her watch with a mirror. She was hooked.

Ildi Martonffy, MD, program director at the University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine and Community Health’s (DFMCH) Madison residency program found that family medicine was where it all came together during medical school.  In fact, she didn’t even know exactly what family medicine was until her rotation at Hinsdale Hospital. It was there she became impressed by the relationship her preceptor, Dr. Kris Pressman, had with each of her patients and with how much she could accomplish in a single office visit.

Although new program directors often had experience as faculty members or assistant program directors, their new job still brought some surprises. 

Roxanne Smith, MD, program director at the Advocate Christ Family Medicine Residency Program in Hometown, Illinois was surprised at how stringently she had to impose the rules with her residents.

Early on in her role as program director she lamented that she didn’t realize she would have to be such a strict enforcer of the rules. Dr. Smith wanted to be fair to all, but not rigid, and she anticipated that little things wouldn’t be a big deal if the bigger goals were being achieved. However, a resident mentioned that with 21 people to keep on track, would need to have rules that would be enforced. This was an eye opener for Dr. Smith and to hear it from a resident made it even more meaningful.

Other new program directors simply wished they had taken some more time for themselves before beginning their grueling schedules.

Luckily for many new program directors, they had outstanding mentors who prepared them for the future.  Dr. Martonffy was privileged to have several mentors who were excellent role models.  However, the most important thing they taught her was that she doesn’t have to have all the answers and not to be afraid to ask for help.

Jeremy Crider, MD, program director at Resurrection Family Medicine in Memphis, Tennessee was inspired early on by his father, Mike Crider, PhD. His father is a teacher/scientist/researcher at the graduate level and has accomplished a lot, yet is humble and well-rounded.

Professionally, Dr. Crider is guided by the founding program director at Resurrection Health, Dr. John David Williamson. Dr. Crider appreciates Dr. Williamson’s ability to remain a keen clinician despite wearing a multitude of hats. In addition, Dr. Williamson shows Dr. Crider how to take hopelessly complex problems and find a clear path forward, all while linking that expertise to the important mission work done by the program.

Dr. Rosemergey strives to emulate her mentor, Dr. Steve Griffith, who has done it all: private practice, academic medicine faculty, program director, and chairman of the department, all while enjoying his job. Dr. Rosemergey is inspired by his ability to stay up to date, practice evidence-based medicine, teach, listen, offer wise counsel, and most importantly, have fun.

One of the first tasks of new program directors was deciding what they wanted to do to better their programs. Dr. Smith has several important goals she hopes to accomplish throughout her first year as program director.  She wants to design a cultural foundation among faculty and residents. This foundation will emphasize a comprehensive, balanced, and versatile curriculum that guides residents.  It will also allow them to understand their role in improving health, enhancing the patient experience, reducing cost, and emphasizing personal well-being that is sustainable in their professional careers. She also wishes to enhance communication and transparency within the residency program and improve relationships with hospital administration.

Dr. Rosemergey’s most important goals for her program include improving clinic experience for residents and patients, addressing the burnout that happens too often to residents and faculty, and ensuring that her residents find purpose in their chosen profession.

At Resurrection Health, Dr. Crider hopes that in his first year as program director, he will be able to expand upon the work they have accomplished in the first few years of their young program. Seventy-eight percent of the graduates at Dr. Crider’s program go immediately in to Health Provider Shortage Areas, and 13% of their graduates have started new health centers among marginalized populations. He hopes that his team will be able to successfully advocate for the sustainability and expansion of the incredibly fruitful Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program.

These new program directors will help achieve excellence in family medicine residency training and guide the future of family medicine.  No pressure, right?

Thankfully, the new program directors are up for the challenge and are committed to educating well-rounded family physicians who understand the importance of continuity and have a passion for partnering with their patients over the long haul to improve their health. They are ready to help train the next generation of family physicians.

 -Kathleen Ingraham, MFA, Online & Emerging Media Specialist