Medical Education, Med Ed Fellowship Director Interview Series

Medical Education Fellowship at UT Southwestern

The EMRA Education Committee is excited to bring you the Medical Education Fellowship Director Interview Series, which will allow Medical Education Fellowship Directors a platform to describe their fellowship program, highlight different medical education career paths, and provide resources for potential fellows. 
If you are a MedEd Fellowship Director interested in submitting a profile on your program, please email EducationCtte@emra.org.

Medical Education Fellowship at UT Southwestern

Director: Larissa Velez, MD
Title: Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education; Professor and Vice Chair for Education
Institution: UT Southwestern Medical Center, Department of Emergency Medicine
Social Media Tags: @dallasemed@utsw_EM

Tell us about you and your program.
I am Puerto Rican, and I completed all of my education, including medical school and emergency medicine residency, at the University of Puerto Rico. I joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2001, after completing my medical toxicology fellowship at UTSW. Currently, I serve as the Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education. I am also a Distinguished Teaching Professor and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Emergency Medicine. Before this, I was Assistant, then Associate, and finally, Director of the Emergency Medicine Residency Program. During my time involved in residency leadership, the UTSW residency has become one of the largest emergency medicine training programs in the country.

Our medical education fellowship is a brand-new fellowship. It is just now completing its inaugural year. During our fellowship, the fellow can pursue the best practices and techniques in order to become an effective EM educator. This knowledge is gained through reading, attending conferences (both for EM and our affiliated fellowships), journal clubs, and book clubs, in addition to practicing the art of education clinically. The fellow can practice clinically at a large county hospital (Parkland Memorial Hospital), a university hospital (William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital) and at a children’s hospital (Children’s Health Dallas). In addition, the fellow has the opportunity for involvement in running a very busy UME service, which provides all the clerkships in EM and its subspecialties, has a very robust EMIG, and supports and advises EM-bound students. The fellow is involved in every aspect of residency administration, including our very busy recruitment season. Finally, the fellow also has unparalleled access to GME at the institutional level. 

Another excellent opportunity is through UTSW Medical Center’s Simulation Center. The center provides a unified simulation experience for all learners on campus. Here at UT Southwestern, we also have a Medical Simulation Fellowship, so there are great interactions and opportunities for collaboration in regards to teaching medical simulation to a wide variety of learners.

The fellow also has significant research opportunities in medical education on campus, and there are multiple resources in the department for pursuing research. The fellow also can be involved with education on a regional and national level. UT Southwestern is very involved in TCEP and SC SAEM regional meeting planning committees.  We also encourage the fellow to participate in any external courses that might enhance their experience and will complement specific career goals, such as ACEP’s Teaching Fellowship, SAEM’s MERC, or the ALiEM Faculty Incubator course.

Overall, the MedEd fellow has plenty of opportunities to engage in the actual education of a wide variety of learners. The fellowship’s curriculum is flexible enough that it can easily accommodate the fellow’s particular areas of interest within EM.

How did you get involved in medical education, and what is your career path that led you to your Fellowship Director position?
I became interested in medical education as a chief resident. I loved teaching others. At that time, there were really no career paths to learn how to be a program director. I taught anyone who would listen to me during my toxicology fellowship. Once I settled in Dallas after fellowship, a position opened for the assistant PD for the program. I sat down with the PD and told him I was interested, and he gave me that first opportunity. Many years later, I became the program director, and a few years into that is when MedEd fellowship started developing. It took a few years, but we finally got it approved. I hope to use my experience and passion to foster another person’s dreams into providing mentorship and structured experiences for the EM education leaders of tomorrow.

What are the benefits to completing a fellowship in medical education?
In my mind, there are several benefits of completing a fellowship in medical education. First, it gives fellows the tools they need to succeed in academic emergency medicine, especially if they want to be involved in education. In the past, people used to learn how to be educators (and honestly, clinicians too) by mentorship and observation, as well as by trial and error. I think we need to hold medical education to the same standard that we hold our clinical practices – to let it be guided by evidence. Fellowship provides evidence-based medical practices of being an educator and the best way of teaching. Residencies and fellowships have increased in complexity; their leaders must know how to be good negotiators, communicators, and administrators. This is not to say that mentorship and guidance aren’t critical, and we have many resources and guidance from experienced educators.

Does your program have a particular niche within medical education or unique aspects potential fellows should be aware of?
Unique aspects of the program are the flexibility of the curriculum and the multitude of opportunities in such a large and diverse EM department. For example, there are opportunities to teach at the bedside in three different large hospitals. UTSW’s medical school has classes of 250 students, so there are plenty of opportunities to teach early learners. I think the Center for Medical Simulation is an incredible facility that will continue to develop innovative ways to teach. UTSW also has fellowships in medical toxicology, EMS, PEM, HBO, simulation, ultrasound, and global health. The opportunity to interact with our other UTSW fellows enriches our MedEd fellow’s experience.

Being a large department, we have a very diverse faculty group, including many national leaders. In our faculty, we have two former SAEM presidents, an ACEP past president, TCEP past presidents, and several other well recognized names. Finally, the availability to work at the institutional GME level is another plus.

What are the different career paths that fellowship graduates from your program have taken after graduation?
As mentioned before, this is a brand-new fellowship. Our first fellow joined a competitive academic medical group in the East Coast. We are committed to helping future fellows find positions that will allow them to further develop and achieve their career goals.

What advice do you have for residents who are just starting to get involved in medical education, especially residents who may not have a lot of resources at their own program?
Get involved early on, as much as you can (but not ignoring your duties as a resident). Say yes to opportunities and to people. Find mentors who have similar interests. Those mentors do not have to be in your same institution, nor do they have to be in your same specialty. There are great mentors everywhere. Work closely with residency and/or clerkship leadership whenever you can. These are fabulous opportunities to get to know another aspect of the program, and most programs really need help, especially around recruitment. Residents are the best people to showcase to applicants what the program is about. Teach those around you  - anyone who is willing to listen. Practice makes perfect!  Watch the attendings and observe different teaching styles to create one that best suits you. If opportunities are not available at your institution, see if one of your faculty can help you connect with others. Finally, do not be scared to get involved. There are many fantastic national resident organizations, and getting involved in these organizations gives you an opportunity to meet others with similar interests.  In the era of COVID-19, virtual meetings are commonplace – capitalize on those.

What qualities does your program look for in potential fellows?
We want fellows who are motivated, hard-working, and enthusiastic about their future in academic EM.

What is the application and interview process like at your program (ie, application requirements, timeline, match process, participation in CORD universal offer day)?
The application process is all about getting to know us and our institution, as well as for us to get to know you! We have a short application to fill out. Our interview day includes a tour of the campus and its facilities, and you will meet multiple leaders in the department. We are planning on participating in the CORD universal offer day.

We do not know what this next interview season will bring.... but we are planning to find novel ways to get to meet applicants and for applicants to meet us! We will announce when our application season opens, but, as of now, it is flexible with no hard deadlines.

What are your thoughts on the value of a master’s degree in medical education? Does your program require it or accommodate fellows who want to pursue one?
We do not have a requirement for a master’s degree. For those fellows who want to pursue a master’s degree, we are happy to work with them. One of our faculty has a master’s degree in medical education and can serve as a resource to discuss pros and cons of pursuing the degree. Since we are a one-year fellowship, it would be difficult to complete the degree during our fellowship; however, as mentioned before, we do offer other opportunities for academic advancement, including certificate courses.

If a resident is interested in getting to know more about your program, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Please contact our fellowship coordinator, Ms. LaTonya Jones, at latonya.jones@utsouthwestern.edu. You can also visit our department’s website. The EM residency has their own residency run website, Dallas EM, which has information about the core residency program.

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