UMEC Spotlight on Faculty Development: Abigail Ford Winkel, MD

Meet Abigail Ford Winkel, MD
Vice Chair for Education, Residency Director, Transition to Residency Course Director
New York University

At the 2018 Martin L. Stone, MD, Faculty Development Seminar, Doctor Winkel (with Christine Foley, MD, and Helen Morgan, MD) presented Secure Your Own Mask First: Fostering Resilience in Ourselves and in Our Learners.

APGO: What was the inspiration for your presentation topic?
Doctor Winkel: My interest in physician wellness stems from a longstanding love of Narrative Medicine. I studied literature before medical school, which I thought of as a hobby until I entered residency. The connection between humanism and compassion and wellness was very real for me. It seemed like the stresses of learning and practicing medicine left little room to acknowledge the patient’s experiences– or my own. Through reading and reflective writing, physicians can connect with their calling and process the stresses of the work. It was exciting to learn through research on Narrative Medicine that not only is it feasible to include these activities into a residency curriculum, but also that doing so reduces burnout. During the past several years, burnout has gained much-needed attention from the medical community, as strong links have been made between the wellness of physicians and important outcomes for both patients and physicians. While both UME and GME curricula are focusing on wellness, it’s hard to make a dent in this problem while faculty are still suffering. Ob-Gyn physicians have high rates of burnout. It can be frustrating to be asked to help support student and resident wellness when faculty are trying to keep up with ever-increasing demands on their time and pressures from all sides. We wanted to do this session about faculty wellness at the APGO FDS because we think that we can learn from each other’s successes in finding strategies to find meaning and address stresses in our own lives.

APGO: What were some of the challenges you faced while developing your program? What was the solution?
Doctor Winkel: I have spoken about wellness and resilience to groups of faculty on several occasions over the past few years, both in ob-gyn and other fields, at my home institution and other centers. The most common obstacle to having a productive discussion about physician wellness is that burnout is endemic in our work. With more than half of doctors suffering burnout, it is hard to make a safe space for discussion of the things that cause burnout. So many faculty feel cynical about ever finding a way to improve this. There is a very interesting model for physician wellness developed by Stanford that acknowledges that there are both organizational and personal responsibilities, and that we cannot address the problem without acknowledging both. It has been more successful to open this discussion by acknowledging that there are things that we as individuals cannot change. Then, we must at least try to see what a few individuals can do, to allow our creative energies to open up so that we can really learn from each other.

APGO: What resources did you find the most useful in developing your program (including APGO resources)?
Doctor Winkel: I participated in the APGO Scholars and Leaders program in 2011-2013, which was the best jump-start into thinking about educational scholarship. It provided not only the building blocks for understanding how to design, implement and evaluate a curriculum, but also introduced me to colleagues with whom I have been able to learn from, brainstorm with, and, most importantly, bond with over the inevitable face plants. On the APGO Electronic Resources Committee, I learned how to search past abstracts, find treasures on the APGO website for faculty development as well as trainee curricula. Attending workshops at the APGO FDS in the past was really helpful in learning what really makes workshops engaging.

What are one to three things that you hope people who attended your presentation at the Faculty Development Seminar take home with them?
Doctor Winkel: I hope attendees take away three key points from the session:

  1. Secure Your Own Mask First. Don’t give yourself any more guilt! If you don’t take care of yourself and find a way to process the stresses in your life, learn from your mistakes and heal from difficult experiences, savor the joyful moments and engage in TLC, then you will not take the best care of your patients you can. You can be a role model for an engaged, fulfilled ob-gyn. You just have to draw some boundaries and accept your imperfect best effort on any given day.
  2. Phone a friend! One of the most crucial elements in the “PERMA” algorithm for happiness described by Martin Seligman, PhD, is the R for Relationships. Countless things threaten the relationships in our lives– the EMR, email, social media, no room for downtime. Bring back a little water cooler chat into your life and see how it affects your mood. It might just do the same for someone else!
  3. Resilience is the gift of adversity. We learn how to be resilient through our challenges, not just by thinking about how to be strong. Embrace the hurdles. Talk about them– you may find a welcome ear from a colleague who can offer support, and it just might help a student or resident who is trying to figure out how they could find a way to professional resilience.

For more information on the Martin L. Stone, MD, Faculty Development Seminar, stayed tuned to the APGO website. In 2019, the seminar will be held at the Hyatt Regency Maui in Lahaina, Hawaii, January 6-9.