The intensive schedules of medical residents and fellows leaves little wiggle room for trainees to explore interests in medicine that go beyond delivering care in their chosen specialty. That realization spurred the creation of the Partners HealthCare Centers of Expertise for Residents and Fellows more than ten years ago.

As its name suggests, the initiative created virtual “centers of expertise” (COEs) that help trainees individualize their training and expand their knowledge and skills beyond their chosen specialty. The “expertise” is contributed by Partners’ world-renown faculty, recruited to the COEs from across departments and hospitals based on their career interests and commitment to mentoring. Through group and individual mentoring sessions, online materials, external contacts, and elective experiences, the centers help expand trainees’ view of cross-specialty opportunities in medicine.

“We recognized 10 years ago that there were certain emerging areas of interest among our trainees that spanned disciplines—and that highlighting these areas and creating new elective experiences for residents and fellows could enrich their education and training,” says Debra Weinstein, MD, Vice President for Graduate School Education at Partners. “The Centers we created tap into the economies of scale provided by the Partners network and bring to bear the expertise of our faculty for the benefit of all who want to participate.”

King Faisal Hospital and Team Heart in Kigali. Image credit: Andrew J.B. Pisansky, MD, MS, Resident in Anesthesiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital

This expertise spans four key thematic areas: Global and Community Health, Health Policy and Management, Health Care Quality and Patient Safety, and Medical Education. Each center within these themes relies on faculty leaders who identify relevant topics and speakers, informed by input from past trainee participants. Residents and fellows in any graduate medical education program at a Partners institution can utilize any parts of the program: funded research projects, global travel grants, or participation in national conferences; courses such as Clinical Teaching Skills, Health Policy, or Value Based Health Care (in conjunction with Harvard Business School); a Global Health Symposium; and dinner sessions with subject matter experts.

Sadie Barocas, Centers of Expertise program manager, has heard positive feedback first-hand from GME residents and fellows about their experiences in the COEs: “It’s inspiring to hear how our programs are making a difference in our trainees’ lives; Faculty exposure, travel grants, and curated activities are raising our trainees’ confidence at a pivotal point in their career. Ultimately, we’re providing enrichment tools that will have a long-lasting impact on this next generation of health care providers.”

The Centers of Expertise are unique in graduate medical education, and popular among trainees: programs typically see an average of 650-700 participations each year. The benefits to participants include opportunities to interact with experts and with other trainees who share their interests, identify new areas to emphasize in their career, and gain skills, credibility and an expanded professional portfolio through competitively selected grants. At the heart of the Centers’ mission is an emphasis on mentoring between residents and experienced faculty across specialties.

“We are offering enriched experience and enhanced credentials for our trainees, to put them on a trajectory for greater impact beyond the important care they deliver to individual patients,” adds Dr. Weinstein.

Learn more and hear from Centers of Expertise participants here.

Image credit: Alex T.Q. Nguyen, MD, Clinical Fellow, Harvard Interprofessional Palliative Care Fellowship, PGY4; Partners Center of Expertise in Global and Humanitarian Health