Three Pieces of Advice for Pursuing A Leadership Career in Medical Education: An Interview with Maria Maldonado, MD

Published: March 02, 2015

By Maria Maldonado, MD

Maria Maldonado, MD, Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program, was recently elected Councilor to the Association of Program Directors in Internal Medicine (APDIM) Council for fiscal year 2016. APDIM is a distinguished, nationally recognized organization that oversees residency programs in Internal Medicine. “Dr. Maldonado is a physician with brilliant clinical skills and a deep passion for sharing her teachings and ideals with future generations of physicians, notes Noel I. Robin, MD, MACP, Chair, Department of Medicine at Stamford Hospital and Professor, Clinical Medicine and Associate Dean at the Stamford Health System, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. “Her energy, enthusiasm and creativity will serve the APDIM well as it faces future responsibilities and challenges.”

Dr. Maldonado recently spoke with the APDIM about how residents and junior faculty can identify opportunities to pursue leadership careers in medical education:

ADPIM: “What are three pieces of advice you would give to Internal Medicine residents or junior faculty interested in pursuing leadership careers in medical education?”
Dr. Maldonado: First, find a good mentor. Look for a mentor who, perhaps, is in a position that you can see yourself in one day. Some people feel reluctant to reach out to those people but I have found great people in leadership positions that are delighted to share what they have learned along the way. Your mentors should be optimistic; they shouldn’t shoot down your ideas, but should help you grow them. He or she should be someone whom you respect and would like to emulate.

My second piece of advice is not to be afraid to stretch yourself beyond what you think are your capabilities. Opportunities come up and some people think, “There is no way I can do that.” Act as if you can do it. When someone says, “I don’t think we can do that,” tongue in cheek, I usually say “Please don’t say that in my presence.” There really isn’t anything we can’t accomplish. Let’s just start with, “What do we want?” Say yes to opportunities. Join a national organization like ADPIM or SGIM and get active.

The third thing is to collaborate. I can’t say that enough. Collaborate! We all have something valuable to offer. Lead in an area that speaks to you, in something that is closest to your heart. As an example, I contacted an author of a New York Times letter who was doing some amazing work, and that led to an opportunity to write an essay on immigrant health. Whenever I have reached out to people, I have always been received very positively and that has led to other opportunities. Don’t be afraid, jump right in and start working with people. Put your ideas out there and you’ll be surprised how excited people are to work with someone who is interested in their work.

ADPIM: “Any last words?”
Dr. Maldonado: Honor those things that bring you joy — those things that excite you when you read about them. Pay attention to the experiences that have touched you deeply or that you are passionate about. Take it to the next level. Take it to a scholarly level. Do a literature search. Join a committee with other likeminded people who are interested in similar things. Collaborate. You’ll find that you’ll have a lot of fun and feel energized.

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