O’Toole named recipient of ‘Courage to Teach’ Award
ACGME award honors innovative residency program directors
Jennifer O’Toole, MD, MEd, professor in the departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Medicine-Pediatrics (Med-Peds) Residency Program director, has been selected as one of 10 recipients in the nation to receive the 2024 Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The award recognizes residency program directors who have fostered innovation and improvement in their residency/fellowship programs and served as exemplary role models for residents and fellows.
“I am so honored and still in a bit of shock over winning this award,” O’Toole says. “I am grateful to Drs. Lou Edje, Eric Warm, Ben Kinnear and Nicole Damari for being the driving force behind my nomination. Having been involved with graduate medical education at the College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s for over 15 years now, I can confidently say I have one of the greatest jobs in the world.”
O’Toole has been involved in the leadership of the Med-Peds Residency Program since 2008 and became director in 2017. The program, which began in 1990, has seven residents in each year of the four-year residency. Residents treat adult and pediatric patients at Cincinnati Children’s, UC Medical Center and the Cincinnati Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center. In September, the Med-Peds residency program was ranked No. 2 in the country for clinical experience by Doximity’s 2023-2024 Residency Navigator. The program also was ranked No. 1 in the Midwest by Doximity and No. 1 in Ohio.
“Our Med-Peds residents challenge me every day to be a better physician, teacher and leader. Their humanity, determination and commitment to providing world-class care to vulnerable populations of patients, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, struggling in the transition between the pediatric and adult world and those that identify as LGBTQ+, is awe inspiring,” O’Toole says.
“We have shifted our focus in the Med-Peds program in the past few years to an environment of co-production in which we empower our residents and faculty to join us in building an innovative training experience that prepares our grads to practice in a modern, patient-centered world,” O’Toole says. “This has been a huge motivator for me as an educator and has shifted the focus of my career from what I am doing for the residents to what we can do together. I have also been fortunate to partner with amazing educators across the academic health center during my career. Their encouragement, support and innovative spirit has embodied the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” she adds.
O’Toole became interim designated institutional official for UC Medical Center and West Chester Hospital in August. In this role she leads the 102 residency and fellowship programs serving 723 residents and fellows at the College of Medicine, UC Medical Center and West Chester Hospital. O’Toole also serves as program director for the IMSTAR (Internal Medicine Scholars Training for Academic Research) Medical Education Fellowship and Vice Chair for Faculty Affairs within the Department of Internal Medicine.
A national leader in Med-Peds residency training, O’Toole currently serves as the president of the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine’s Medicine-Pediatrics Program Directors Association (MPPDA), the first UC faculty member to lead this organization. She is an enthusiastic promoter for the advancement of women and gender equity in pediatric hospital medicine and is the founding chair of the steering committee for ADVANCE PHM, a national organization advancing women in hospital medicine.
In 2021, O’Toole received the Emerging Leadership Award for an Individual from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS). She received the Brendan P. Kelly, MD Award from the MPPDA in 2017. The award honors an associate program director of a Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Program who demonstrates teaching excellence, collaborative leadership and compassionate patient care.
Recipients of the Courage to Teach Award will be acknowledged at the 2024 ACGME Annual Educational Conference March 7-9, 2024, in Orlando, Florida. Each Courage to Teach awardee receives a plaque as well as travel expenses paid by the ACGME to travel to the ACGME Annual Educational Conference to receive the award. Additionally, each awardee attends a retreat experience with new and former awardees.
O’Toole is the fifth College of Medicine faculty member to receive the Courage to Teach Award: Donald Gilbert, MD, professor, Department of Pediatrics, received the honor in 2020; Eric Warm, MD, Class of 1993, Richard W. and Sue P. Vilter Chair in Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, in 2016; Karl Golnik, MD, professor emeritus, Department of Ophthalmology, in 2015; and Gregory Rouan, MD, Class of 1980, professor emeritus, Department of Internal Medicine, in 2010.
The ACGME is a private, nonprofit organization that accredits about 8,800 residency programs in 130 specialties and subspecialties. The ACGME’s mission is to improve health care by assessing and advancing the quality of resident physicians’ education through exemplary accreditation. Accreditation is voluntary, however, programs must be ACGME-accredited to receive graduate medical education funds from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Residents must graduate from ACGME-accredited programs to be eligible to take their board certification examinations. Additionally, many states require completion of an ACGME-accredited residency program for physician licensure.
Feature photo of Jennifer O'Toole, MD, MEd. All photos by Colleen Kelley/UC Marketing + Brand.