Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Carlos A. Pellegrini, Regent of the American College of Surgeons

Osmosis Team
Aug 18, 2014

Carlos A. Pellegrini, MD, FACS, is the Henry N. Harkins Professor and Chair of Surgery at the University of Washington. While at UW Medicine, he founded the Center for Videoendoscopic Surgery, the Swallowing Center, and the Institute for Simulation and Inter-professional Studies. In the past, he was involved with the University of Washington's Mini-Medical School, an annual series of medical seminars provided to the public. Dr. Pellegrini's immense experience in surgery led us to interview him for our Leaders in Medical Education series!

How did you decide on a career in surgery?

My parents were both physicians and my grandparents were both physicians too. During my first year of medical school, there was a professor that I admired a lot. He was a surgeon and I shared many similar values and thoughts. I saw what he was doing and I said to myself that this is what I wanted to do.

As Henry N. Harkins Endowed Chair in Surgery, how do you foresee the field of surgery changing over the next few years?

I see it becoming more and more minimally invasive. We will be more proficient at utilizing information technology, cameras and other devices and systems that provide information about the patient, the patient’s disease, etc., in a very personalized way.

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What reforms do you believe would improve the quality of medical education in surgery?

There are lots of things, but I think the biggest reform would be a broader utilization of simulation and modeling as a teaching tool, a warm up tool, and a patient-specific rehearsal tool. The ability to practice and learn through simulated environments changes the quality of medical education. It allows medical students to develop the skills that they need in an environment that is safe.

Every few weeks there appears to be a new report discussing burnout rates of physicians and the fact that many would decide not to pursue medicine if given the chance. In this somewhat disheartening environment, do you have any advice for current medical students about avoiding burnout? Or more general advice?

I think that burnout is a real problem with physicians because of the amount of work and the stress associated with the work that they deal with day in and day out. I would advise physicians to take all possible measures to mitigate the risk that is inherent to being a physician. This can be done through the development of a strong family life, having kids, being married to a person that he/she really feel very strong about, being sure to take enough time off for his/her own life, pursuing personal goals, and ensuring a healthy amount of sleep. It is important to use whatever structures in life please him/her.