Guest Editorial

Combining Academy's Residency Conferences Benefits Faculty, Staff

Sometimes, change is good.

Every year, the AAFP holds a Residency Program Solutions Conference for Family Medicine Residencies (RPS) and a Workshop for Directors of Family Medicine Residencies (PDW) in Kansas City, Mo. The PDW is designed to address the needs of residency program directors and associate program directors, while the RPS draws a broader audience of program directors, physician faculty, administrators, coordinators, nurses and medical assistants.

[Grant Hoekzema, M.D.]

Grant Hoekzema, M.D.

The program directors' meeting traditionally has been held in June. That timeframe, however, coincides with residency graduation and new resident orientation, which made it difficult for some people to attend the conference. It also was difficult for some program directors to attend both meetings.

So this year, the Academy scheduled the events back-to-back in early April, with one day of overlapping programming. The combined event eliminated one trip to Kansas City for those who wanted to attend both meetings. For some residency programs, the saved travel costs alone allowed more faculty to benefit from attending.

The result? Attendance at the PDW increased by 15 percent to 575 people, and RPS attendance increased by 33 percent to 579. Nearly 200 people attended both meetings. The new format allowed people to interact with faculty and staff they might not have met in previous years.

The combination of increased attendance and overlapping schedules created an electric environment. For example, the ballroom was packed when the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) presented its Review Committee for Family Medicine update.

Unlike past years -- when the program directors and other staff members attended separate events -- residency teams heard this important news together. Different people take away different things from presentations because their jobs are affected differently. Now, colleagues could compare notes immediately after sessions and talk about what the implications were for their own programs.

Teaching family medicine is a team effort among faculty and staff, and the combined meeting facilitates collaboration, which is one of the core elements of the patient-centered medical home model that is being implemented throughout our training programs. Frankly, the combined meeting is good modeling of collaborative behavior.

Of course, that's just one approach. Staff from my program actually split up during some sessions to cover more ground. There is a lot of content at these meetings, and one person can't get to all of it.

When the idea of combining these events was first floated a few years ago, some feared that overall attendance would decline and that the events would lose their identity.

Attendance, clearly, is up. Although some sessions were combined, we preserved time for program directors to meet on their own, which is a feature that must continue in future meetings to maintain program director buy-in.

Overall, the meetings were a huge success in terms of attendance and coordination, bringing two distinct, established events together in a short time period.

Participants also told us they were pleased with the meetings' new mobile app, which provided real-time updates, notice of schedule changes, access to presentation handouts, maps and social media support.

Of course, we're not going to get complacent. We can and will do better. For example, we learned that we need to offer more time for questions and answers in the combined sessions next year.

We hope more people will be able to participate next year based on the new format. So, will we see you in Kansas City in 2014?

Anyone involved in residency education could benefit from attending. It is a must to stay current on changes in graduate medical education. In addition to the aforementioned ACGME Review Committee, at this year's meeting, we heard from ACGME about its new accreditation system, the family medicine milestones project and an update on the Family Medicine Length-of-Training Pilot. We also were briefed on proposed changes in GME funding and related legislation.

If you attended PDW/RPS this year, what was your experience, and what do you think we could do better?

Grant Hoekzema, M.D., is the past president of the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors, chair of the PDW planning committee and program director for the Mercy Family Medicine Residency in St. Louis.