2017 President Elect Candidate:
Beat Steiner, MD, MPH, University of North Carolina
As I was growing up I was surrounded by teachers. My dad, a political scientist, was particularly influential. His work allowed me to see the joys of teaching and it also allowed our family to grow up on two continents. He would teach in the United States in the winter and in Switzerland in the summer. These experiences shaped my passion for teaching and my interests in working with people from different backgrounds.
After college, a brief stint teaching middle school whet my appetite for teaching. Later after completing residency training in family medicine at the University of Rochester NY, I sought out a career in academic medicine. I completed a NRSA research fellowship and Preventive Medicine residency at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and subsequently joined the Department of Family Medicine at UNC. As I had hoped, a faculty position at UNC has allowed me to pursue the career of my dreams. I have taught and mentored learners at all levels and served in multiple educator roles. Currently I serve as the Assistant Dean for Clinical Education. I have also had the privilege of joining a national community of educators. I first presented at STFM as a fellow. Later I joined the Group on Medical Student Education (now the Medical Student Education Collaborative) and served on the National Clerkship Curricular Task Force. Until recently I was the chair of the STFM Committee on Medical Student Education. STFM has become a core part of my “work family” but I also enjoy working with other national groups. I have helped write questions for the NBME and MedU. I have worked with clerkship directors from other specialties through the Alliance on Clinical Education (ACE). And most recently I have become part of the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education consortium.
My upbringing also inspired a desire to care for underserved populations. After caring for people from rural North Carolina and recent immigrants in a Community Health Center for many years, I recently helped start a practice that integrates primary care for patients with severe mental illness. I also serve on the Physicians Advisory Group for North Carolina Medicaid and have been actively involved in Community Care of North Carolina, an innovative model to improve cost effective care for Medicaid patients. This balance between teaching, clinical care, and policy work has kept me energized and inspired.
I would be honored to serve as President of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. It would give me an opportunity to help lead STFM’s effort to expand our community of learning so that more teachers of family medicine feel the support and inspiration that our organization provides and so that STFM can play a more prominent role in building communities that offer safe spaces to tackle difficult conversations.
Parker Palmer speaks eloquently about learning communities, communities that can help renew and express the capacity for connectedness at the heart of authentic education. STFM has become such a community for me and for many others. STFM brings us together to learn about new trends in medical education and new techniques for teaching. But even more importantly it brings us together to think in a much deeper way about medical education. We inspire and energize each other and when needed we support each other. Yet there are teachers we have not yet reached, many of whom play vital roles in the professional formation of our students and residents. In particular, community preceptors and new faculty members have often not had the time or energy to connect with educators outside of their programs. Residents and students may not view STFM as “their” organization. STFM has made important steps in reaching out to these groups and I would like to help lead an expansion of these efforts.
I believe that such expanded communities with educators from different regions and backgrounds can address broader problems. Our system of health care faces an uncertain future. We live in country that has become deeply divided. I know that STFM alone can’t solve our health care problems or heal our deep divisions. But with a mission “to advance family medicine to improve health through a community of teachers and scholars” we have an opportunity to contribute. Our strategic plan can guide us to improve student and family medicine training sites, to train health care teams to achieve the Triple (now the Quadruple) Aim, and to engage fully with Family Medicine for America’s Health. We can also create safe spaces to have courageous conversations and develop meaningful action; important steps in healing our divisions. I would like to help lead such an organization.
Answers to Candidate Questions:
1. What actions does STFM need to take to move STFM toward the goal of becoming the indispensable professional home for all family medicine educators?
I would like to expand STFM’s effort to support community preceptors, new faculty and learners. Community preceptors working in innovative multidisciplinary practices, who demonstrate a passion for patient care, show our learners the future of Family Medicine. New faculty members similarly play a crucial role in educating our students and residents, yet many have not had the time or energy to connect with educators outside of their programs. Residents and students can inspire us and give important feedback. Yet they may not feel that STFM is “their” organization. Reaching out to each of these groups has unique challenges. But recent efforts show that these challenges can be overcome. For an example, over the last several years the percentage of students and residents attending the STFM MSE conference has increased dramatically due to specific outreach efforts by the MSE program committee.
2. One or two key challenges I anticipate STFM will face in the next 3 years and a potential course of action to address each challenge.
Two of the core strategies identified by Family Medicine for America’s Health to transform our specialty are opportunities but also threats for STFM. One core strategy, ensuring a well-trained workforce, is fundamental to the work of STFM. Community preceptors who teach learners in their practices are a vital part of that work, role modeling the future of our profession. Yet community preceptors have less time to teach because of clinical productivity pressures and paradoxically are being asked to teach more because of a rising number of learners. I believe that STFM can lead national efforts to recruit, retain (and support) community preceptors. This summer, I chaired a national summit, led by STFM, to address preceptor recruitment and retention. This summit identified five specific strategies that STFM can help lead over the next 3-5 years.
The other core strategy, payment reform, may not sound like a core part of STFM’s mission, but it is critical to our success. Our work as educators becomes more and more difficult without payment reform. Our time to teach, mentor, and develop educational innovation will become even more scarce if we continue to scramble for clinical revenue in a fee for service world. We need to devote significant energy, working with others, to bring about payment reform.
3. Share my experience at bringing people together with diverse agendas and finding common ground.
Maybe it is my Swiss background or my dad’s work on deliberative democracies but one of my biggest professional enjoyments is helping people with diverse agendas find common ground. Whether I am leading a curriculum committee meeting at our school, a meeting of practice leaders participating in our Medicaid network, or a STFM education committee meeting, I am always struck by the power of the group. The process takes longer and requires more advanced preparation but the end product is invariably better once everyone has had input.