Nephrologists have always been considered among the best educators in medicine. Our commitment to excellence in patient care and research extends to finding innovative ways to teach students, residents, and fellows about some of the most complex (and interesting) issues physicians and scientists face. Nephrologists also know how to provide complete care for a complex patient population in ways that most other specialties do not.
ASN has always honored its members’ focus on training the next generation of nephrologists by devoting resources to educational programs. In the last 18 months, this commitment has included restructuring the Nephrology Match to implement an All-In policy. Last year, 95% of nephrology training programs in the US complied with this policy, and our goal for the upcoming year is 100% compliance.
The All-In policy offers candidates and programs the most fair and equitable Match process. I am pleased that a number of other specialty societies have approached ASN as a leader in this arena, asking for guidance as they begin to implement their own All-In policies.
However, while recognizing that the All-In policy is an important and necessary step for the good of our profession, such a change tends to amplify details of implementation and, temporarily, obscure larger goals and challenges. We are now entering our second year under the All-In policy, and, as educators we must focus on the strategies that optimize our ability to equip the next generation of nephrologists for the challenges they will face.
Does the size and scope of the program match the number of slots—is each fellow offered an enriching training experience?
Does the fellowship advance workforce diversity?
Does the institution adequately support the program, including program faculty?
Do graduating fellows find jobs consistent with their career and personal objectives?
Do program graduates pass the boards on their first attempt?
Are physician–investigator graduates obtaining independent funding?
These are by no means the only questions we should ask ourselves, but they begin a conversation vital to strengthening both the field and the profession. And yes, we must do a better job attracting the best and brightest students to kidney care. ASN has developed an array of programs aimed at building the pipeline and supporting kidney professionals, and the society recently coalesced all training and workforce efforts in order to provide the most cohesive support for members and future members throughout their careers.
Still, the core of professional excellence in medicine remains providing the most inspired education and training programs to advance research, treatment, and policy. There is increasing awareness of the importance of outstanding educators in medical education, and it should be our goal to develop opportunities for training at all career levels. However, I think that it is especially vital that we provide an outstanding introduction to kidney function and disease to those early in training in order to “imprint” them, to sustain their interest in nephrology.
I encourage you to send me your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org) on how we can encourage and recognize the most inspiring educators, continue to build excellence in educating and training leaders, and continue to advance kidney care.
The ASN President’s Column also appears in Kidney News Online at www.kidneynews.org.