Editor’s note: Each month, SHM puts the spotlight on some of our most active members who are making substantial contributions to hospital medicine. Log on to www.hospitalmedicine.org/getinvolved for more information on how you can lend your expertise to help SHM improve the care of hospitalized patients.
This month, The Hospitalist spotlights Ernie L. Esquivel, MD, FACP, FHM, the clerkship director, medicine, and assistant professor of clinical medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Dr. Esquivel is involved with SHM’s and has spearheaded the creation of the program.
What inspired you to become a hospitalist?
I became a hospitalist serendipitously. At a critical juncture in my life about 8 years ago (when a change in career direction became necessary), I chanced upon a locum tenens position in a small community hospital in Lansdale, Pa., as a hospitalist. Having been a primary care track resident who subsequently chose to specialize in nephrology, I rediscovered my generalist inclinations during this job. I fell in love with the fast pace of the hospitalist’s work, the complexity of delivering care and the diversity of diseases, and of personal life stories on the general medicine wards and the ICU.
Subsequently, I worked as an intensivist in Philadelphia for a year before joining the Academic Hospital Medicine Division at Weill Cornell in New York City. At Cornell, I have managed to cultivate my passion for medical education, especially for working with and mentoring students and residents, while continuing to care for patients on the general medicine wards. As the medicine clerkship director, I have had the privilege of creating an innovative curriculum that I hope prepares medical students for the challenges in, and the richness of, encounters in the practice of inpatient medicine.
How and why did you become a member of SHM and the Physicians in Training Committee (PIT)?
I joined SHM 6 years ago as I started to explore my career options more deeply. In 2010, I attended the Academic Hospitalist Academy, and that really offered me a closer look at the different ways in which SHM could help me advance. I went to my first SHM annual meeting 5 years ago; it motivated me to become involved in committee work. Because of my interest in medical education, I volunteered for the PIT Committee and it has given me the opportunity to work closely with other hospitalists around the country, and develop programming specifically targeted toward future hospitalists.
What is the PIT Committee working on?
The committee has continued to find ways for increased engagement of residents and students in SHM. Dr. Brian Kwan, an academic hospitalist at UC San Diego, and I have been developing a travel grant program for resident trainees and hospital medicine fellows to attend the. By offering them a stipend to defray the costs of travel if their is accepted, we hope that the annual meeting can become a venue for them to highlight their work, while becoming exposed to the many activities and opportunities offered by our society. In addition, it could be a way for them to network with other future hospitalists and established future mentors.
What prompted you to lead the creation of the Student Hospitalist Scholar Grant summer program?
Before I became a hospitalist, I spent about 7 years in research, studying renal genetics. I have always been fascinated by science and asked how I can help to advance our knowledge. As a hospitalist, it became clear to me early on that there are many questions that one can pose about the clinical work we do, the way we practice medicine, or ways to innovate education, and that there are many academic hospitalists who engage in advancing the field. I spearheaded this program because I would like students to see the field of hospital medicine as one in which they can develop a future career in academic medicine, not only by caring for patients, but also by involving themselves in research questions or QI projects.
Do you have any specific advice for students and residents interested in hospital medicine? In what ways can early-career hospitalists utilize SHM resources to leverage their careers?
The decision to pursue a career as a hospitalist will open up many more questions in the future, because there are so many opportunities available. I would suggest that trainees ask in which ways they see themselves growing in the future – clinical research, medical education,operations, and hospital leadership are the main avenues. When I interview future faculty, I always pose the same question to each of them: “Every year you are allocated X amount of money that you can use for CME, etc. How are you going to use this money to improve your skills in any particular area?” The ability of candidates to answer this question reflects for me their preparedness to develop themselves as career hospitalists and their willingness to contribute to their group or division in an innovative manner.
The reality is that as one gets older, most will find it difficult to sustain a 26-week/year schedule. So find ways for your energies, in whichever area, to be noticed and developed toward a position of leadership in the hospital or medical school.
As you take care of patients in the hospital or consider your education and training, identify ways in which things can be done better. Invariably, someone in the Society of Hospital Medicine is interested in the same issue(s). Explore your ideas, share them at the meeting, talk to people, go to the SHM website and identify what resources are already available.
If SHM will be your future academic home, volunteer to engage in activities at the chapter or national levels. Our society is really dedicated to identifying ways to welcome you into our exciting and continually evolving field.
Felicia Steele is SHM’s communications coordinator.