AAIM Member Spotlight
Lisa Willett, MD, MACM, FACP
Professor of Medicine
Tinsley Harrison Internal Medicine Residency Program, Director
Dr. Tinsley R. Harrison Endowed Chair in Medical Resident Education
Vice Chair of Education, Department of Medicine
University of Alabama at Birmingham
How long have you been a member of AAIM?
As long as I can remember. I believe it was officially in 2002 when I became the Associate Program Director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Describe your typical day.
There is no typical day and that is part of the adventure of being a program director. If I am on clinical service my day looks very different then if I am not. When I am on service, I spend more time with my residents clinically, spending time with them during morning report, and making hospital rounds. If I’m not on service then I am doing more administrative work and working with the chief residents and my team of APDs. There is also a cycle to the residency calendar and depending on the time of year it includes different responsibilities. I also work on giving presentations, helping the fellowships, and other needs of the residents. I try to attend as many didactics as I can and be present in various settings.
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is spending time with the residents in small group teaching sessions, morning report, and one on one meetings. I really love when I get to spend time with them individually and discuss their career goals. I love when resident graduates who are now faculty stop by and ask for career advice, or just swing by for a visit. Another favorite part of my job is finding little ways to bring joy to the residents – delivering cookies or visiting teams while they are rounding. It gives me an opportunity to check in with them in their environment and make sure they are doing well.
How has the AAIM membership been of value to you and your career?
In countless ways! When I first started coming to meetings, it was wonderful to learn new content, new ideas and innovations from the meetings and apply them in my own program. It’s always my favorite professional meeting venue, and I learn so much at each meeting. AAIM also allowed me to present workshops with colleagues to an amazing group of program directors, administrators, and faculty who care about all the same values that I care about. And, as I’ve continued to come back to meetings, I reconnect with those colleagues. Many of my AAIM colleagues have become dear friends and I lean on them for support and guidance. I joined the Alliance APDIM survey committee and it has been an incredible opportunity to get to know people better and serve the membership with data. Council has been such an honor. Overall AAIM has been valuable professionally and personally. Personally, it’s been fun to be part of a peer network of trusted colleagues. Professionally, AAIM has provided me with the necessary skills to be effective as an associate program director and program director and provided me with opportunities to share my work and achieve recognition outside my own institution.
What's your favorite moment of your career so far?
It’s hard to pick just one! Last year I was asked to give the white coat ceremony speech for the new medical students. It was an incredible privilege to remember where we all started on the journey of medical training, and why we chose medicine for our careers. It really hit me that as a residency program director, I get to be part of seeing those early dreams from medical school become a reality in residency training.
What was your childhood dream job?
I don’t remember having one as a child, but I was adamant that I did not want to be a doctor. In college, I majored in biomedical engineering and ended up not enjoying the engineering aspect, but loved the anatomy and medical science. I think medicine finds you—it found me.
How do you spend your free time?
I have a wonderful husband and two children. My daughter is a sophomore in college and my 16-year-old son is in high school. I love spending time with them, and am happiest if that time is down on the gulf coast – paddle boarding, fishing, and relaxing watching sunsets! Watching my son’s sporting events is my favorite hobby these days. I also run for my own well-being and health, and do some amateur bird watching in my back yard.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Eight years ago I had a running accident. I broke my jaw in three places, and couldn’t eat for eight weeks. It taught me why it is no fun to be a patient and that a diet of only Boost® and Ensure® is dreadful.