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Stefanidis and Nickel provide national leadership in surgical education

Pictured left to right: Brianne Nickel, MA, C-TAGME and Dimitrios Stefanidis, MD, PhD, FACS, FASMBS
Dimitrios Stefanidis, MD, PhD, FACS, FASMBS, vice chair of education in the Department of Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, and Brianne Nickel, MA, C-TAGME, clinical education leader within the department, recently began their terms as presidents of national surgical education associations. Dr. Stefanidis is the current president of the Association for Surgical Education and Nickel is the president of the Association of Residency Administrators in Surgery. Both will serve as presidents for a one-year term.

“I am grateful to my colleagues in surgical education for electing me as the association’s president and humbled by this opportunity,” Dr. Stefanidis said. “I am passionate about surgical education, and through a number of planned initiatives, I hope to help move the field forward and positively impact surgical learners.”

Surgical training is undergoing a paradigm shift into a true competency-based training model, and Indiana University surgery programs are leading the way in this important transition.

In March 2021, the Annals of Surgery published a cohort study led by Indiana University Department of Surgery, where second-year general surgery residents completed a competency-based laparoscopic cholecystectomy curriculum, a minimally-invasive gall bladder removal procedure. Results of the study showed residents’ simulated and operative performance increased significantly to that of more experienced third-year general surgery residents, with less variability in performance. It is believed to be one of the first comprehensive evaluations of a competency-based surgical curriculum in the United States.

“Dr. Stefanidis’ research in the area of surgical education has led to major advancements toward optimizing the learning environment and conditions for training a young surgeon in the modern era,” said Michael G. House, MD, interim chair for the Department of Surgery at the IU School of Medicine. “Indiana University has become a leading institution for medical and surgical education in the United States.”

Surgery residents at Indiana University benefit from new curriculum additions including competency-based training and a novel mental skills curriculum, which help residents stay focused and confident in the operating room. They also gain access to strong mentors and a highly organized and energetic residency program administrator. Currently, there are approximately 120 residents and fellows within the Department of Surgery at the IU School of Medicine, who have access to both clinical and research opportunities.

Nickel plays a major role in ensuring their training experience is well-rounded and seamless.

“Brianne has stood out as an outstanding surgical education leader throughout her 10 years at IU, so we are thrilled that she now has the opportunity to lead the Association of Residency Administrators in Surgery,” said Jennifer N. Choi, MD, program director for General Surgery Residency at IU School of Medicine, who will assume the role of associate dean for graduate medical education in July for the medical school. “She inherently understands surgery residency education frameworks and keys in developing and implementing novel aspects of training. I am certain that her leadership in ARAS will empower other surgery administrators to engage at the same high level.”

Nickel said she is excited to lead the Association for Residency Administrators in Surgery.

“I knew I wanted to lead this organization after my first conference that I attended in 2013,” Nickel said. “I’m excited about the members we have currently on the executive committee, and I hope to build off the enthusiasm created during the 2022 meeting to help engage newer members of our organization as we cultivate the next generation of leaders in ARAS.”

Nickel said her goal for this year is to focus on the continuing educational and professional development of the surgery program administrator.

“It is just as imperative for program administrators in any specialty – not just surgery – to embrace and immerse themselves in a culture of becoming a lifelong learner,” Nickel said. “The impact of a program administrator is more than just organizing paperwork. If we are to be considered members of the education leadership team as determined by the ACGME, then we need to make sure we are giving our members the tools to sit at the table to make meaningful contributions.”

Nickel added surgery program administrators view surgical training through a unique lens and can identify nuances and pick up on trends that may be important to address.

The mission of the Association for Surgical Education is to lead innovation, scholarship, and professional development in surgical education. ARAS is a national educational resource and support network for professionals who manage surgery residency programs.





The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Angie Antonopoulos

Angie Antonopoulos is a Communications Generalist for the Krannert Cardiovascular Research Center at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Previously she served the Department of Surgery and the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering. She has more than a decade of experience in health communications for higher education, advocacy, government and contract research organizations.