Published June 24, 2014
Gregory Cherr, MD, has been selected as one of 16 fellows in the Northeast to participate in an intensive development program that is enhancing his ability to lead residents and develop medical education programs.
He is pursuing the two-year Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) certificate program — one of several professional training opportunities offered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Cherr, director of the University at Buffalo’s five-year general surgery residency program, plans to pass along the skills he’s gaining through a new medical educator program for residents, now in the planning stages.
He says the LEAD training will help him develop the program, which he plans to incorporate into the residency curriculum.
The program will give residents opportunities to develop their teaching and leadership abilities, he explains.
“Being a good physician means being a good educator,” says Cherr.
Interactions with patients and families — as well as interactions with other health care providers who have different levels of knowledge — often require physicians to have the skill set of an educator, he explains.
“Even if trainees do not go into academic medicine, being good educators helps make them better physicians.”
In April, Cherr participated in LEAD workshops focused on self-reflection, goal setting and mentorship. Held at the Yale School of Medicine, the workshops have helped Cherr develop self-awareness about his communication and leadership styles.
“It’s important for physicians to reflect on how we are communicating,” he emphasizes.
Effective communication is a skill he strives to instill in his residents, who now participate in a leadership and conflict resolution program.
“This program helps our trainees learn to be more self-aware about the way they communicate,” he says.
“We’re helping them change their behaviors to accommodate patients, families and the health care professionals they work with on a daily basis.”
LEAD, a cohort-based program, enables Cherr to engage in a professional learning community and establish relationships with scholars and clinicians from a variety of backgrounds.
“To understand how people at other sites have worked to improve training at their institutions — to hear about what has worked — is useful,” he says.
“We're all working to create the best possible training environment.”
During one of the workshops, he exchanged ideas with a faculty member from an Ivy League university who runs student programs in psychiatry.
“At first blush, that seems very different than what I do as a surgeon working with residents, but we both face the same questions about training,” he says.
“She’s always enthusiastic about education. Trainees are clearly her highest priority,” says Cherr.
Cherr asked Berger to be his LEAD mentor after working with her in the UB Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Educator Program, which is the model for the medical educator program Cherr plans to develop for residents.
“I worked with her as she set up the program, and it was helpful to see her leadership skills,” he says.
The RCP program helps medical educators learn techniques to enhance medical education and develop strategies to improve teaching methodologies.
Cherr's other LEAD mentor is Alice Fornari, EdD, RD, who — like Cherr — emphasizes humanism in medicine.
Fornari, associate dean for educational skills development at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, leads a mentoring program focused on promoting humanistic patient care.
Cherr, a member of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, encourages trainees in his program to be mindful of humanism in medicine.
“A lot of the skills that go into being a good leader also translate into humanistic, patient-centered medical care,” he says.
“For example, emotional intelligence, the ability to understand people and their emotions and their communication styles, is an important part of leadership,” says Cherr. “But it’s also important in day-to-day dealings with patients and families.”
Cherr was selected through a rigorous peer review process for the LEAD certificate program of the AAMC’s Northeast Group on Educational Affairs, one of four regional groups.
Cherr also is associate professor and vice chair for education in the Department of Surgery.