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Duncan, Hickey named Loeb Teaching Fellows

Focuses will be on error mitigation, grief curriculum

by Kristina SauerweinJuly 25, 2022

Washington University

James R. Duncan, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology, and Erin Hickey, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics, have been named the 2022-24 Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Teaching Fellows at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The fellowship program was established in 2004 with a gift from Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb to advance medical education. The program also is supported by The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The two-year fellowship provides recipients extra time to focus on implementing innovative ideas to enhance the education of medical students and residents.

“The Loebs continue to leave an indelible imprint on medical education at Washington University,” said Eva Aagaard, MD, vice chancellor for medical education, senior associate dean for education and the Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Professor of Medical Education at the School of Medicine. “The fellowships represent their commitment to the training of students and residents and the professional development of faculty. Drs. Duncan and Hickey are excellent educators whose innovative proposals will enhance medical education at Wash U.”

Duncan, also the chief of interventional radiology at the School of Medicine’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (MIR), will focus on equipping medical trainees with strategies for preventing errors and responding to obstacles they might encounter while performing common, image-guided procedures. These procedures often include placing the catheters needed for intravenous medications, or small flexible tubes needed to drain deep-seated pockets of infection. Such procedures are often minimally invasive alternatives to surgery.

“I commonly advise trainees that every procedure is like walking through a minefield,” said Duncan, who treats patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital. “Fortunately, our prior experience has equipped us with a good map of where the mines are buried. When navigating through the minefield, the first key is knowing about the various mines and recalling where they are buried. Still, for a variety of reasons, trainees might encounter one of the many mines. In those instances, the second key for trainees is recognizing when they have stepped on a mine. The third key is knowing how to avoid injury from the exploding mine.”

With her fellowship, Hickey will aim to seal a gap in the curriculum by educating pediatric medical trainees about grief, including simulating difficult conversations they may have with patients and their families. The project also will encourage residents to hone productive strategies for managing the personal grief that inevitably arises while caring for children who are seriously ill, which ultimately may enhance professional fulfillment and preclude burnout.

“Grief is ubiquitous,” said Hickey, who attends on the Pediatric Palliative Care Team in the Division of Newborn Medicine at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and is the educational lead for medical students and pediatric residents rotating with her team. “Residents will care for grieving patients and caregivers no matter which career path they choose. In my coaching role at the medical school, I have directly observed that addressing grief encourages vulnerability and enhances perspectives, which can positively affect both personal and professional growth. Additionally, preparing residents to lead difficult conversations with patients and caregivers helps build their confidence, which increases the likelihood they will use those skills. Ultimately, I hope to promote a culture within the pediatric residency that normalizes and validates grief in medical training.”

Kristina covers pediatrics, surgery, medical education and student life. In 2020, she received a gold Robert G. Fenley Writing Award for general staff writing from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and in 2019, she received the silver award. Kristina is an author and former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Los Angeles Times, where she was part of a team of journalists that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for breaking news. Additionally, she covered the 2014 Ferguson unrest for TIME magazine and, for eight years, wrote a popular parenting column for