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  • A Message from Timothy J. Babineau, MD, President and CEO

  • Timothy Babineau, MD

    I remember July 1, 1986 like it was yesterday. It was my first day as a surgical intern at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston. My alarm went off at 4 a.m. I got to the hospital at 4:30 a.m. and started pre-rounding on my assigned list of patients. I was on the Chief’s service — an auspicious way to start an internship. I worked all that day, was on-call that night, and finished up around 10 p.m. the following day. (These were the days before duty-hour restrictions were in place!) By the time I left the hospital, I was so tired I forgot where I had parked my car and spent the next two hours walking, floor by floor, the three high-rise parking garages connected to the hospital looking for my car. I finally found it (last garage, of course), got home a little after midnight, had something to eat and went to bed. When the alarm went off four hours later I remember lying in bed thinking “what have I gotten myself into?” It got much better after that and I spent the next six years learning how to become a competent and compassionate surgeon. They were some of the best years of my life.

    Training the next generation of physicians is among Lifespan’s most important missions. In partnership with The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, we sponsor nearly 75 graduate medical education programs across the spectrum of adult and pediatric specialties. Each program is accredited by the ACGME (Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education) and overall supervision of our training programs is skillfully provided by Dr. James Arrighi, who serves as our DIO (Designated Institutional Official). At any given time, approximately 600 residents and fellows are working and learning in Lifespan facilities — and an additional 200 have rotated in from other hospitals in order to receive specific clinical training. This June, close to 190 of our 600 residents and fellows will be graduating from our training programs. And along with extending well-deserved and heartfelt congratulations to these graduates, I would like to write briefly about the impact we have on them and the impact they have on us. 

    Trainees come to us from medical schools in our area, such as Brown, the University of Massachusetts, Tufts and Harvard; medical schools across the country such as Tulane University in Louisiana, the University of California and the University of Florida; and international medical schools. Our programs are very competitive and nearly 100% of the positions we offer get filled every year — an enviable statistic. But as selective as we are, and as smart as they are, they still have much to learn when they join our system. 

    All of our training programs are woven into every aspect of the care we provide, and every Lifespan health care professional and many other staff members participate in the education of these young physicians. So along with our ophthalmologists, dermatologists, hospitalists, internal medicine physicians, pediatricians, plastic surgeons, radiologists, surgeons, oncologists, emergency medicine specialists and so on, our pharmacists also educate residents about important drug interactions; our technologists also teach cardiology fellows how to obtain an echocardiogram; respiratory therapists teach important aspects of ventilator management to intensive care fellows; and it is no exaggeration to say that our nurses—all of our nurses in all their various roles—contribute on a daily basis to a young trainee’s medical education. (Side note—a very seasoned and wise nurse saved my hide on my second day of training by alerting me to some subtle, but worsening clinical signs in a diabetic patient. Best advice I ever got as an intern: “Listen to the nurses. They know way more than you do.”)

    Depending on their specialty or subspecialty, residents and fellows train for three to ten years or more. It is an enormous investment of our time and energy (and our scarce resources as we are only partially reimbursed for the cost of educating young physicians) but we reap rich rewards by training them. Our residents provide countless hours of patient care, closely supervised by our medical staff. These young doctors enhance the effectiveness and the efficiency of our medical teaching staff and often provide an immediate response to unexpected emergencies. They also improve patient care by challenging our physicians to remain current, to question the status quo, and to consider alternate views. In other words, they keep us on our toes !

    Our academic physicians dedicated to education will tell you that despite some sacrifice of their valuable time, they derive great satisfaction from teaching. They can have a profound impact on the careers of young doctors, imparting not just clinical skills, but also serving as role models of the professionalism, selflessness, and compassion that are hallmarks of great physicians. It is no surprise then that quality graduate medical education programs result in increased physician satisfaction and retention and can facilitate the recruitment of nationally recognized physician leaders. Many of our most gifted physicians are here at Lifespan hospitals because teaching is a critical piece of their professional identity. And finally, each residency and fellowship program requires a physician to be designated as the “program director”. These physician leaders dedicate a considerable amount of time from their professional and personal lives to ensure that we have an environment that fosters learning and adheres to regulatory requirements. These individuals deserve special recognition and thanks.

    To all the graduates, I wish you the very best as you embark on the next phase of your career. And for those residents staying with us for next year and beyond—stick with it ! Our patients depend on you and you will look back on this time in your career with great fondness. And to all those who have devoted time to help these young women and men become proficient, compassionate physicians, I offer my sincere gratitude.

    I close with a quote from Sir William Osler: “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.” Be a great physician!

    In the steadfast pursuit of excellence, I remain,

    Sincerely yours,


    Timothy J. Babineau, MD

    President and CEO, Lifespan