Resilience Will Drive Academic Medicine Forward

November 8, 2014

For Immediate Release

Resilience Will Drive Academic Medicine Forward

Chicago, Ill., November 8, 2014—In his address at the 125th annual meeting of the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., told the leaders of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals that resilience is an essential quality for the academic medical community as it grapples with the extreme challenges and demands ahead.

“While most of us would say that medicine is the most gratifying, stimulating, and noble career a person can pursue, many of our colleagues are in genuine distress,” he told nearly 3,500 meeting attendees. “Resilience is what drives us forward and inspires us to take on difficult challenges and to keep trying in the face of doubt and failure.”

Kirch pointed to stagnant funding for NIH-supported medical research, increasing levels of medical student debt, multiple challenges to academic medicine’s basic business model, and increased competition for residency training positions as some of the challenges triggering concern among medical and teaching hospital leadership, faculty, students, residents, and staff.

Noting that stress and burnout are increasingly common among today’s physicians, Kirch observed that the academic medical community faced similar pressures and concerns 50 years ago. While some might question whether the community has moved forward, Kirch said he sees “the amazing progress academic medicine has made—and continues to make—in improving health over the last 50 years. The challenges evolved, and committed generations of academic physicians made steady progress addressing them. In fact, just about every time our nation has faced a new health challenge, academic medicine has stepped up.”

Kirch attributed progress in the face of challenges, which sometimes take decades to resolve, to the quality of resilience. He recounted inspiring examples of this quality in action, from the perseverance exhibited by a physician-scientist seeking NIH funding to alleviate the suffering of her patients, to an institutional effort to overcome a $250 million projected deficit and ensure its long-term sustainability, to the collective efforts of medical school and teaching hospital leaders, faculty, residents, and students to create a more positive learning environment, transform medical education, and improve clinical quality and safety. “It is our resilience—as individuals, institutions, and as a community of academic medicine—that decade after decade has allowed us to accomplish more than we could imagine in the face of seemingly overwhelming challenges,” he said.

“[While] failure is part of our daily lives,” Kirch said, “at our best, we return to our work with vigor, propelled by our mission and our colleagues.” To become more resilient, he encouraged attendees to reconnect to academic medicine’s shared mission and create networks of support.

“Together, we draw renewed strength from one another and use that strength to face the challenges we share and the obstacles we must overcome,” he said. “Collectively, we are able to see how, time after time, over many decades, we have risen above these obstacles as we strive to fulfill our shared commitment to educate tomorrow’s doctors, discover tomorrow’s cures, and provide our patients today with the best medical care possible. That is our resilience at work.”

“As a community, now is the time to draw on our resilience by remembering our shared purpose and committing to support one another more strongly than ever,” added Kirch. “Over the years, academic medicine has epitomized resilience, and I am more convinced than ever we will continue to thrive if we rise together to meet the challenges ahead.”

View the full text of the AAMC president’s annual meeting address, "Resilience."

View the full text of the address by AAMC Chair Lorris Betz, M.D., Ph.D., "Courage"

The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association representing all 141 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and nearly 90 academic and scientific societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC represents 148,000 faculty members, 83,000 medical students, and 110,000 resident physicians. Additional information about the AAMC and U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at www.aamc.org/newsroom