Combining medicine and student affairs: Meet Emily Walvoord, MD
Emily Walvoord, MD, became the associate dean for student affairs at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2017. Since then, she’s been a force on the student affairs team and as a physician mentor—with student success always at the forefront of her mind. Learn more about Walvoord and her goals for student affairs in her Q&A.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a physician
I initially thought that I wanted to be a veterinarian and even worked for a summer in a vet’s office. However, my last year of college I shadowed some doctors and realized that I wanted to have the human connection and chance to be involved in cutting edge science that being a physician allowed. Because of my path change, I had to take a gap year after undergrad and did not take the MCAT until two weeks before I graduated from college (which I would NOT recommend!). During that time, I worked for the Red Cross and volunteered at a children’s cancer treatment center. These experiences got me hooked on pediatrics.
As a fourth-year med student I off-handedly choose to do a peds-endocrine elective and loved it. As a resident, I loved being in the hospital, caring for complicated patients, participating in research studies and teaching. So, completing a subspecialty fellowship and staying in academic medicine was perfect for me. I served as a chief resident for an extra year at the end of my residency and developed a love for medical education. I had incredible mentors as a resident who inspired me to become a pediatric endocrinologist and strive to be a great clinical teacher. Being a pediatric endocrinologist is a great fit for me because I get to follow children long-term as they grow up. I love treating underlying medical problems through therapeutic hormonal treatments. The endocrine system and feedback loops are very logical and fascinating to me.
Tell us about your journey to working in medical student affairs
I became an associate pediatric residency program director after I had been a faculty member for about five years at Indiana University School of Medicine. Then I moved into IU School of Medicine’s Dean’s Office to work with the Faculty Affairs, Professional Development and Diversity (FAPDD) team. I especially loved the professional development part of my job and ran the school’s junior faculty development program (LAMP). During that time, I also worked closely with Drs. Brad Allen, Maureen Harrington, Regina Kriesle, Butch Humbert, Alan Ladd and Megan Palmer as well as some amazing students to update the school’s MD curriculum. This reignited my interest in medical student education.
Becoming the associate dean for student affairs in 2017 has been my most fulfilling role thus far. It combines the opportunity to teach, mentor, work with students, and lead a team of incredibly dedicated student affairs professionals. I also get to continue to see patients! I strive to make long-lasting improvements in how we support students in achieving their dreams. IU School of Medicine has amazing students and working closely with them is the absolute best part of my job.
In your words, what is student affairs and why is it important?
Student affairs assists with personal and professional development to ensure that every student is successful. We are here to support academic success, professional and career development, wellness, leadership and community engagement.
What are your top 3 goals for student affairs at IU School of Medicine?
- Be available to connect students at all campuses with personal, academic and career support.
- Prepare students to be highly successful in the residency match process.
- Deliver effective and informed help to our students and our curricular affairs colleagues.
What keeps you motivated and helps you find your wellness balance?
I am always motivated to try to do things better—making things more logical and fun for everyone while improving the learning environment. I am never perfectly “in balance”, and try to live my life in a way that I am able to enjoy all parts of it, even though sometimes one part of my life needs more attention than another. Trying to be open to the constant reassessment of where I need to place my efforts and focus is important to me.
What are your top 3 pieces of advice for prospective and current medical students?
- Don’t doubt yourself—you belong here!
- Do your best every day—even though that best will be different on different days.
- The more connections that you have—friends, colleagues, faculty and administrators—the happier and more successful you will be.
What are you most excited about within the student affairs team?
I’m proud of the new programs we’re developing to better support our students:
- Expanded wellness opportunities
- Systems to closely track each student’s academic progress so that we can offer help and intervene to ensure success
- Statewide free peer tutoring system for all courses and clerkships
- Structured and significantly improved career development and mentoring programs
- Enhanced programming and support for underrepresented minority (URM) and first-generation students
- More streamlined and timely communication efforts
Outside of work, what are your hobbies and interests?
I have a wonderful husband and two amazing children—one in high school, one in college. I like to spend time with them and my wonderful friends. We all enjoy traveling, hiking and downhill skiing. My husband and I both like to run and spend time outside gardening. I also love to read novels and check out new restaurants.