Program Coordinators: Unsung heroes of graduate medical education

Posted on October 25, 2021 by Nichelle Smith
Nichelle Smith

LaTasha Williams, senior pediatric residency program coordinator, center, enjoys a pizza party with pediatric residents at USA Health.Download larger image

Beyond managing the day-to-day operations of their respective residency programs, organizing busy resident work schedules and overseeing budgets, residency program coordinators at USA Health pride themselves in taking their role one step further – often serving as a source of comfort for their resident physicians when they need it most.

LaTasha Williams, who has served as senior program coordinator for the Department of Pediatrics at USA Health for the past four years, said the majority of her residents have moved to Mobile from all parts of the U.S. and abroad. “They may go months without seeing their loved ones and close friends, so my goal always has been to create an environment that gives the residents a sense of home away from home,” she said.

To help battle homesickness, burn-out and the rigors of residency training, Williams also enjoys finding fun ways to help residents stay motivated, such as planning an impromptu snow cone day or simply giving words of encouragement. “The residents know that I am always available to take their call, respond to their messages or to be a listening ear. I am here for residency and beyond,” she said. “I wear my role as a program coordinator like a badge of honor.”

Williams credits a keynote speech from a fellow program coordinator for providing her with such a mindset. “During her talk, she described a situation where one of her residents was dealing with some personal issues and called her at 2 in the morning,” Williams said. “She took the call and said that she felt something was terribly wrong…. She sent the police to the resident’s home, and because of her quick thinking, she was able to save the resident’s life. I have carried that talk with me ever since and have used it as the premise for my role as coordinator.”

Leah Musgrove, who serves as program coordinator for Internal Medicine at USA Health, has been part of Graduate Medical Education at the academic health system for about three years. “The resident training program is very intense, so it is important for the residents to have a resource to help them navigate their administrative tasks to ensure that they have what they need to finish the program and pass the boards,” she said. “The coordinator is that resource.”

Musgrove said the highlight of her job is interacting with the residents. “They are so diverse in their personalities, and they are all very grateful for the assistance we provide,” she said. “I truly enjoy spending time with them. I don’t like when they graduate and move on, because I miss them, but I know that it is part of the job.”

Although Shavella Schreiner, OB-GYN program coordinator at USA Health, loves all aspects of her job, she said her favorite part is watching fourth-year medical students come in as shy PGY-1 residents and observing their growth from start to finish. “It is wonderful watching them develop into amazingly confident and knowledgeable physicians.”

“I am always super emotional on graduation day, because I am so proud,” Williams added. “They persevered, made it through, and they fulfilled their dream of becoming a pediatrician. I am just fortunate to have been part of the journey with them.”

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