Connectedness: The Key to Resilience, Inclusion and Excellence

Sometimes weeks accidentally have themes. Last week’s theme was connectedness.

On Saturday, I attended a talk on physician resilience at the American Association of Medical Colleges annual meeting.
On Monday, I attended a talk on diversity, inclusion and excellence at the University of Chicago Medicine.
On Thursday, I participated in a conversation within the family medicine department that resonated for me around themes of resiliency and inclusion.

These are my notes from the week:

“I have been hearing deep deep concerns about our current and future prospects in academic medicine,” said Darrell Kirch, MD, President of the American Association of Medical Colleges, speaking at a townhall meeting at the 2014 annual conference in downtown Chicago.

Resilience, said President Kirch, is key to addressing the burnout that plagues physicians at the front line, where 60% of emergency room physicians succumb to burnout, and 40% of outpatient physicians. Resilience, he said, emerges from strength of character and sense of community.
(We need to build our community to build our resilience. We cannot be isolated, trying to do this alone. Isolation = burnout.)
Faculty satisfaction, he said, emerges from a connection to institutional mission and connection to colleagues.
Connectedness = resilience and satisfaction.

The theme of connectedness indirectly continued when University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise spoke at a Diversity and Inclusion talk at the University of Chicago Medicine.
Diversity, she said, is the number of faculty and students of various backgrounds present.
Inclusion, she said, is feeling welcome to the life of an educational community.
(Feeling welcome is the first step to the connectedness that builds resilience and satisfaction.)
“You can’t be excellent without being diverse and inclusive,” she said. “Or diverse and inclusive without being excellent.”
(Diversity = isolated numbers. Inclusion = vibrant connections. Diverse individuals exchanging ideas and connecting = excellence)

We had an honest talk at our Thursday morning faculty development meeting, sparked by a presentation by Melissa Gilliam, associate dean of diversity for the University of Chicago’s biological sciences division.
We talked about experiences around race.
We talked about experiences around inclusion in the educational community.

We spoke honestly and openly about our experiences, sharing our stresses. We heard each other’s perspectives, shared in a spirit of inclusion. I left the meeting feeling more connected to my colleagues. More satisfied as faculty. More resilient.

A proposal emerged from the meeting: to create a protected space and time for family medicine faculty to share our experiences:

Being a physician in a community health center on the South Side of Chicago
Being a faculty member at the University of Chicago Medicine
Being a family member to our spouses, siblings, parents, children
Being a writer, cook, yoga instructor, advocate, homeowner, head of a non-profit
Being a black white 55 shades of grey woman
Finding our place
Finding our community
Finding our inclusion

Being who we are
And welcoming each other into our own educational community
We will strengthen the connections that build resilience and life satisfaction.

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