The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) will recognize Frances Clark, residency program coordinator for the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine Neurology Residency Program, with the Program Coordinator Recognition Award at its annual meeting on April 23 in Los Angeles.
Clark will be one of two recipients recognized by the academy for her creativity and innovation in ensuring the future of neurology. She was nominated by former resident Suraj Rajan, M.B.B.S., who graduated in 2017 as one of the members of the medical school’s first class of neurology residents.
Rajan nominated Clark for her outstanding work as coordinator of the Neurology Residency Program. Clark collaborated with faculty, residents, hospital professionals and university professionals to create an outstanding Neurology Residency Program in five years.
Before coming to the program, Clark had spent several years working in medical education. But she had no idea about the unique opportunities she would encounter as the coordinator of a new residency program. Initially, she faced many challenges, as there were no processes established to improve upon, no existing relationships with hospital professionals and no chief or senior residents to help guide the way for new residents.
“Fran navigated the challenges of running the day-to-day affairs of a nascent residency like a true professional,” said Rajan, who is now at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Department of Neurology, where he is completing a two-year clinical fellowship program in Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders. “Not only did she bring her managerial expertise, but she also applied principles she gathered from coordinators’ conferences and various professional development courses.”
Before the program accreditation application was approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), Clark utilized connections to establish networks for the program, creating a team within the university. She worked to develop new relationships with medical education professionals across the city of Dayton and across the nation.
As the program awaited accreditation, Clark was instrumental in helping with building rotations, developing policies, creating evaluations and preparing faculty.
“Communication between residents, the program director, faculty and myself was imperative to the success of the program,” said Clark, who is from Eaton, Ohio. “Numerous meetings were held to discuss improvement opportunities, and we continued to revisit ideas and tap into resources to build better processes to create the best environment for residents to optimize their training experience.”
Administratively, she created a culture of excellence in education, which involved aligning the program goals with the ACGME core program requirements, timely feedback to residents through evaluations and face-to-face faculty mentorship.
“These set the scene for professional development of both residents and faculty, building a standard of professionalism and keeping communications open and constructive,” she said.
In the absence of senior residents or a chief resident, Clark took on many responsibilities not typical of a program coordinator. She created block schedules and call schedules. She worked with physicians and residents to build didactic schedules based on the AAN guidelines.
“I leveraged relationships with health care professionals to provide lectures on topics such as infectious disease, pediatric neurology, basic science and practice management topics including billing and coding,” said Clark, who attained training administrators in graduate medical education certification in 2017. “The networks I established continued to prove beneficial as residents came to me seeking guidance during their training.”
When Rajan and others in the first class of neurology residents started applying for fellowships, Clark compiled lists of fellowships and created timelines to keep residents on track throughout their training years.
“As residents, we always could depend on Fran to remind us of exam deadlines and any funds or grants available for conferences and paper or poster presentations,” Rajan said. “My fellow residents and I found her nurturing and caring attitude and advice exceptionally helpful.”
Clark views her role as an opportunity to work with amazing people who inspire her. “I have the opportunity to make a difference for residents who work to save lives and improve the quality of life for patients every day,” she said. “What a remarkable honor that is.”