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UW Medical Students Connect with Wyoming Leaders in Medicine

February 11, 2020
group of people posing for the camera
Participants in the recent Physician Leadership Academy at the University of Wyoming include, from left: Tim Robinson, Dr. Hollie Stewart, Dr. Heith Waddell, Dr. Deeanne Engle, Dr. Tracie Caller, Ben Blalock, Sheila Bush, Dr. Kristy Van Kirk, Curt Swenson, Dr. Donald Kirk, Whitney Harmon, Dr. David Fall, Dr. Giovannina Anthony and UW College of Health Sciences Dean David Jones. (UW Foundation Photo)

Physicians and other health care professionals throughout Wyoming are often thought of as being in leadership roles, especially taking the lead in caring for the needs of their patients. However, these same health care professionals also are called upon to provide more strategic leadership roles -- both in their personal and professional lives, and in their communities.

Responding to the need to better equip physicians to embrace advanced leadership roles -- such as influencing Wyoming health care policy and mentoring medical students -- the Wyoming Medical Society created the Wyoming Leaders in Medicine Physician Leadership Academy.

Sheila Bush, Wyoming Medical Society (WMS) executive director, along with a team of trained physician instructors, hosted the first physician leadership class of 2020 recently at the Wyoming-WWAMI Medical Education Program’s classroom facilities in the University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences.

“The partnership between the Wyoming Medical Society and Wyoming's WWAMI program is invaluable to the future of medicine in Wyoming,” Bush says. “WMS represents the Wyoming physicians caring for patients today and remains deeply invested in ensuring the success and sustainability of the WWAMI Medical Education Program, the program that trains native Wyoming physicians who will care for our patients tomorrow. WMS’ Physician Leadership Academy provides physicians with tools and skills they can employ in their clinical practices as well as to support and advocate for critical programs like WWAMI.”

Many of the physicians participating in the Physician Leadership Academy work closely with WWAMI students -- in the capacity of classroom instructors as well as in a preceptor context, where students get hands-on experience in developing their clinical skills. Tim Robinson, director of Wyoming’s WWAMI program, says it is well established in medical literature that one of the most important factors in attracting and retaining physicians to rural locations is job satisfaction.

“An important component of job satisfaction is the existence of a strong professional network,” Robinson says. “Having physician leaders, such as those in the Physician Leadership Academy, involved with our medical students is invaluable. Our students not only get first-rate instruction and mentorship from these physicians, but they also get to witness the commitment that these physicians have to developing their leadership skills.”

Reno Maldonado, a second-year medical student from Laramie, says it was an honor to meet with physician leaders from around the state to answer questions and share his experience in the program.

“As I look toward my return to Wyoming in the future, it was great to see the opportunities that WMS offers to grow physician leaders around the state,” Maldonado says. “Members of the Physician Leadership Academy also took time to answer many of my questions about their own experiences practicing medicine in Wyoming. I know that I speak for my entire class in saying thank you to WMS and physicians around the state for the endless support of the WWAMI program.”

The Wyoming Leaders in Medicine initiative offers leadership development training to physicians, and it fosters dialogue with colleagues and experts on the challenges and opportunities of practicing medicine in an evolving environment.

“One of the greatest challenges facing today’s physician leaders is balancing the demands of their work with their own physical and mental well-being,” Bush says. “In a 2019 study, it was estimated that 55 percent of physicians experience burnout and/or depression.”

The Wyoming Leaders in Medicine program combines the latest research in neurology with practical tools physicians can immediately deploy to maximize their physical and mental well-being and mitigate known burnout drivers for optimal performance.

During their first day of training, physicians participated in team engagement strategies, presented by Curt Swenson, with FutureSYNC Int. (FSI). Following a noon break, participants were given a tour of the WWAMI teaching facilities in the UW College of Health Sciences, including the new, state-of-the-art, active-learning classrooms; the newly constructed human cadaver lab; and the WWAMI study space.

At the end of the day, the Physician Leadership Academy participants were given a tour of the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center by UW Foundation President Ben Blalock. The Gateway tour was followed by a dinner in the Roy and Caryl Cline UW President’s Room, where UW Trustee Dr. David Fall, a Gillette pediatrician, discussed his journey as a physician leader in Wyoming.

On the second day of leadership academy training, physicians were given a tour of the Mick and Susie McMurry High Altitude Performance Center and participated in a group discussion with team physician Matthew Boyer.

Participants in the leadership training reported developing friendships with fellow physicians in an environment that allows for meaningful connections and a rare opportunity to engage with peers.

The first Physician Leadership Academy class of 2020 included:

-- Curt Swenson, FSI facilitator.

-- Whitney Harmon, WMS communications director.

-- Dr. Hollie Stewart, Gillette pediatrician.

-- Dr. Heith Waddell, Sundance family practioner.

-- Dr. Giovannina Anthony, Jackson obstetrican/gynecologist.

-- Sheila Bush, WMS executive director.

-- Dr. Donald Kirk, Star Valley family practitioner.

-- Dr. Kristy Van Kirk, Cheyenne obstetrician/gynecologist.

-- Dr. Tracie Caller, Cheyenne neurologist.

-- Dr. Deeanne Engle, Douglas family practitioner.

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