A day in the life of a CE: Felix Ankel

By Jamiu Busari (@jobusar)

Felix Ankel (@felixankel)
Vice President and Executive Director of Health Professional Education, HealthPartners Institute
Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Minnesota.
Minneapolis, United States

What is your clinical and/or educational background?

Felix Ankel, MD, went to medical school at the University of Wisconsin (1985 to 1989) and completed his training as an emergency physician at the University of Illinois, Chicago (1989-1992). He was member of the faculty at the University of Wisconsin between 1992-1995. In 1995 Felix moved to Minnesota to help start an emergency medicine residency program at the Regions Hospital.  Between 1996 and 2000 he served as the associate residency director and in 2000 he became the  residency director.

In 2013 Felix took on his current appointment as Vice President and Executive Director for Health Professional Education at the HealthPartners institute.    The HealthPartners Institute, is part of HealthPartners, the largest consumer-governed, non-profit health care organization in the United States. The HealthPartners family of care includes five hospitals, a comprehensive system of clinics and a 1,700-physician multispecialty group practice. This system serves more than 1.4 million medical and dental members and the program trains more than 470 residents, 2,000 healthcare students and provides continuing education to more than 19,000 participants annually.

Felix is also a professor of emergency medicine and assistant dean at the University of Minnesota, and since 2013 the ACGME designated institutional official (DIO) at Regions Hospital.

 “I have a passion for graduate medical education as a strategic asset for learning health care organizations. I continue to interact with residents and students frequently, and am energized by the direction in which graduate medical education is going, especially with regards to technology and social learning.”

What percentage of your time is spent for clinical practice, teaching activities, educational research and administrative work?

I would consider myself 20% clinician and 80% bureaucrat.”  Felix estimates that he spends about 5% of his time on education research activities, 5% in resident and medical student supervision, and 10% in clinical practice seeing patients. He spends about 80% of his time providing executive leadership for health professional education for HealthPartners, which includes developing and maintaining partnerships with health professions educations schools, nurturing a community of practice of over 400 clinician-teachers,  performing programmatic evaluations, and strategically developing new programs.

Felix is also active in various educational organizations such as Academic Life in Emergency Medicine (ALiEM) and the ICEblog.

How do you enjoy the diversity in your work/career?

“It is frustratingly fantastic! It’s like being in many different worlds. From the micro to the meso to the macro levels… the content is really interesting but what makes it truly fascinating are the different contexts. For example, I work with operational leaders, leaders from different schools, program directors, state government, and at both regional and national levels.” He illustrates with the following example, “one day, I can show an emergency medicine resident a new technique for relocating a shoulder with immediate results, the next day I can engage in a strategic partnership with a health professions school that may (or may not) show results for 3-4 years.” Felix claims that It has been a privilege to work within an integrated health system that uses a systems-thinking approach to health and well-being. He facilitates the deployment of diverse talents to co-create the future of graduate health professions education. This includes incorporating best practices in quality and patient safety, patient and family-centred care, stewardship, “teaming” behaviour, leadership, management, communication, and programmatic evaluation.

Do you have any difficulty with the diversity in your work, and if yes, how do you manage it?

Felix describes that when you are in “multiple worlds” depending on the stress level of the situation, you are sometimes viewed as “the other” and often “pigeon holed” into a certain role. This can be challenging, because people have underlying assumptions based on the roles (e.g. values, direction, competences). The challenge he says, lies in the effort required to address these misperceptions. “I don’t know if I am good at it or not but I am always trying and always learning in the process”. Two specific examples of how he tries to deal with these misconceptions are: 1. To focus on relationships, identifying commonalities between different perspectives to help build bridges; and 2. move conversations away from the individual to the community.

“We essentially live in a binary world. Either you are a doctor or you’re not. You are an educator or you are not. You are an administrator or you are not. If you have multiple roles and operate in a quantum world (you are both a particle and a waveform), you sometimes encounter discomfort in relationships that are based on a binary mindset.”

Three tips

Asked for 3 tips he would like to offer to junior Clinician Educators, Felix responds with the following:

  1. Transcend siloes but have good boundaries – You have a responsibility TO medical education not FOR medical education
  2. Be deliberate with how you learn, both from the people you interact with and the books you read.
  3. Use vulnerability as a gift to be cherished rather than a force to be avoided