‘Bridging leaders’ link quality, medical education

A new community emerges


In June 2019, a 5-hour preconference seminar at the annual Integrating Quality Conference of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in Minneapolis highlighted the emergence of a new concept, and a new community, within the larger field of hospital medicine.

Vineet Arora, MD, MAPP, MHM, University of Chicago Medicine: associate chief medical officer for the clinical learning environment

Dr. Vineet Arora

“Bridging leaders” are clinician-educators with a foot in two worlds: leading quality and safety initiatives within their teaching hospitals – with the hospitalist’s customary participation in a broad spectrum of quality improvement (QI) efforts in the hospital – while helping to train future and current physicians. “Bridging” also extends to the third piece of the quality puzzle, the hospital and/or health system’s senior administrators.

“About 8 years ago, another hospitalist and I found ourselves in this role, bridging graduate medical education with hospital quality and safety,” said Jennifer S. Myers, MD, FHM, director of quality and safety education in the department of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. “The role has since begun to proliferate, in teaching settings large and small, and about 30-50 of us with somewhat similar job responsibilities have been trying to create a community.”

Following the lead of the American College of Graduate Medical Education1 and its standards for clinical learning environments that include integration of patient safety and quality improvement, these have become graduate medical education (GME) priorities. Students need to learn the theory and practice of safety and quality improvement on the job as part of their professional development. Residency program directors and other trainers thus need to find opportunities for them to practice these techniques in the clinical practice environment.

At the same time, mobilizing those eager medical learners to plan and conduct quality improvement projects can enhance a hospital’s ability to advance its mission in the new health care environment of accountable care and population health.

New concept arises

Is bridging leaders a real thing? The short answer is yes, said Thomas Ciesielski, MD, GME medical director for patient safety, quality education, and clinical learning environment review program development at Washington University in St. Louis. “This is a new trend, but it’s still in the process of defining itself. Every bridging leader has their own identity based on their institution. Some play a bridging role for the entire institution; others play similar roles but only within a specific department or division. There’s a lot of learning going on in our community,” he said.

The first Bridging Leaders track was held last year at AAMC’s 2018 Integrating Quality Conference, an event which has been held annually for the past decade. The concept was also highlighted in a 2017 article in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education2 by bridging leaders, including many of the faculty at the subsequent AAMC sessions, highlighting their roles and programs at six academic medical centers.

One of those coauthors, hospitalist Vineet Arora, MD, MAPP, MHM, was recently appointed to a new position at University of Chicago Medicine: associate chief medical officer for the clinical learning environment – which pulls together many of the threads of the bridging leaders movement into a single job title. Dr. Arora said her job builds on her prior work in GME and improves the clinical learning environment for residents and fellows by integrating them into the health system’s institutional quality, safety, and value missions. It also expands on that work to include faculty and allied health professionals. “I just happen to come from the health system side,” she said.


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