Career Journeys: Major Nathan M. Shumway, Training Program Director

Jul 25, 2014

Major (P) Nathan M. Shumway, DO, MC, USA, FACP, has been the Program Director for the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium (SAUSHEC) Hematology & Medical Oncology Fellowship since 2012. He is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS) located in Bethesda, MD. Because USUHS medical students rotate at military hospitals across the country, the program is often referred to as “America’s medical school.”

How did you choose your current career path?
I have always loved to teach. Having trained at tertiary care academic medical centers, I have been fortunate to identify several mentors with a similar passion for teaching. When I completed my fellowship training in San Antonio, it just felt like a natural fit to stay on as teaching faculty. After my first year as a staff provider, both the Program Director and the Associate Program Director (APD) left the military and I was asked to take over as the APD. It was challenging, but I was excited to be given that opportunity. That experience solidified my desire to remain in academic medicine and helped pave the way for me to transition into my current position.

Is there a personal experience that shaped your professional journey and led to where you are today?
During internal medicine residency, several of my classmates and I were complaining about the quality of the Journal Club lecture series. One of our mentors challenged us to change things. Rather than tell us how, we were gently guided to come up with our own plan. With time, we implemented a new format for our Journal Club lectures. The next year, our Journal Club was voted one of the best lecture series in our residency. This teacher continued to push us to share our work at a workshop for future chief residentsand eventually in a publication about our experience. The biggest takeaway for me was that when you give adult learners ownership of a process, they are far more likely to succeed.

How has your position within a military environment been unique compared with other academic institutions?
The most unique aspect of military graduate medical education is that we “hire” 100% of our graduates. This puts pressure on us to ensure the highest quality training possible because several of our trainees may be caring for us and our families in the future.

Another difference is that providers and patients in our system share the common bond of military service. Frequent deployment in support of our nation’s war efforts to help ensure the safety of our servicemen and servicewomen has a special meaning to our patients.There is a comfort and trust between provider and patient that is truly exclusive to our health care system.

Describe your typical work day.
My day starts with attending a fellow lecture. Afterwards, I might spend the morning in continuity clinic with a medical student. After a quick lunch, I run over to the Hematopathology Department for Microscope Rounds to review that week’s bone marrow and lymph node biopsies. In the afternoon, I staff clinic for the fellow rotating with me. At the end of the day, I try to catch up with emails, meet with my program coordinator, and then get home to see my son play basketball.

What aspect of your job is your favorite? What aspect is the most challenging?
My favorite part of academic medicine is having protected time. I can tend to the needs of each individual fellow as well as the needs of the program as a whole. Having time to be creative and collaborate with my colleagues for educational innovation sustains me.

The most challenging part has been dealing with staff turnover and retention.We routinely have providersdeployed or filling in at other military hospitals. In addition, more senior staff may leave the military after 10 to 20 years when their military obligation is complete. Improving the academic environment and creating a collegial atmosphere has been a big priority as we work to recruit and retain excellent educators.

What do you wish you had known before you chose your career path?
I had very little understanding about the reporting responsibilities for residents in order to be compliant with both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education.

Why would you recommend a career as a physician-educator to someone starting out in oncology, and is there an ideal time to start pursuing this path?
If you like the idea of lifelong learning and enjoy teaching, I think you should consider academic medicine. When considering work-life balance, I think the lifestyle for a clinical educator is hard to beat. Whether you begin this career directly after fellowship or after several years’ experience in another area of oncology, you have the opportunity to bring a unique perspective to a training program.

What kind of person thrives in this professional environment?
Creative, passionate, lifelong learners.

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