The Department of Medicine’s New Vice Chair of Education Has Prepared 24 Years for His New Role

Ask Dr. Kevin Simpson what criteria he used for choosing a medical school and the professor in the Stritch School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, flashes a proud smile before sharing his answer:

“I wanted to attend the medical school closest to Notre Dame.”

Many years have passed since Dr. Simpson completed his medical degree, a residency in Internal Medicine and fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Chicago. One thing hasn’t changed: his love of Notre Dame football. What has changed is his perspective. Now he is responsible for helping to identify the right medical students to join the Loyola University Chicago Internal Medicine residency. For 24 years, Dr. Simpson has served as the Department of Medicine’s Residency Program director. He recently assumed a new role: vice chair of Education in the Department’s Council of Vice Chairs, a faculty leadership organization.

Simpson says he landed the first of the two appointments by accident.

“I joined the faculty of the Stritch School of Medicine in 1993 and went to a resident conference. I complimented one of the residents on their presentation and from that point forward was labeled  ‘an enthusiastic faculty member.’ The next year I was asked to be the residency director and have held the position ever since.”

The long-ago resident wasn’t the only one to recognize Dr. Simpson’s enthusiasm for academics. When Dr. Ravi Durvasula joined the Department of Medicine as chair in November 2017 he created a new Council of Vice Chairs from across the various functions to cross-pollinate and collaborate on the Department’s future. He selected Dr. Simpson for Vice Chair of Education.

“Kevin has long been committed to the success of the Department’s residents and very innovative in his approach to education and helping residents succeed. He was the obvious choice for this new role,” explains Dr. Durvasula.

Under Dr. Simpson’s leadership, the Department of Medicine has achieved something no other Internal Medicine Residency Program in the state of Illinois has. For the last three years, Loyola’s Internal Medicine residents have achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the American Board of Internal Medicine certification examination. This compares to national board pass rates of 91 percent in 2016, 92 percent in 2017 and 95% in 2018.* Only a handful of other Departments of Medicine from across the nation have attained a perfect pass rate like Stritch over the last three years.

The achievement is part of an overall effort to differentiate Stritch’s Internal Medicine residency program.

“Chicago is a great medical education community. We have five university training programs, each one excellent and unique. To attract the best residents, we (Loyola) have to differentiate ourselves. Achieving a 100 percent board pass rate is one way, and we’ve made significant investments in our curriculum and how we challenge and support our residents to succeed,” Dr. Simpson explains.

There are other factors that distinguish the Loyola Internal Medicine residency program from others in Chicago and nationally.

First, Dr. Simpson points to the rigor of the Internal Medicine residency program, which offers a highly intensive hospital-based experience in large part because of Loyola University Medical Center’s active organ transplant program, advanced subspecialty services and busy intensive care units. The university’s Internal Medicine and Medicine-Pediatrics residents are highly sought after as hospitalists and primary care physicians and competitive for all fellowships. “They have seen everything and done everything within a hospital,” he says. 

With the Council of Vice Chairs, Dr. Durvasula seeks to further differentiate the Department’s residency program through creating tracks in research, medical informatics and international medicine, while continuing to prioritize the patient experience, patient safety and quality of care. The goal is to allow trainees to personalize their residency experience through increased elective opportunities.

“Medicine is evolving rapidly with technology in all of its forms and we have to prepare our residents appropriately. The Council’s role is to challenge the status quo and create a broader vision for education, patient safety and quality, research, faculty development—everything we face today,” says Dr. Simpson. “However, while we welcome change, we’ll always retain our mission of training exceptional physicians.”

Residency training remains one of the most challenging times in a young physician’s life. Dr. Simpson credits his fellow residents and faculty mentors for helping him survive his residency years. “It was hard, but thanks to the people around me, I never felt I couldn’t handle it.”

His advice to future residents in the Loyola University Chicago Department of Medicine is this:

Be grateful knowing that despite how hard the training is, almost everyone on earth would be happy to trade places with you. Although it doesn’t always feel like it, it’s a privilege to be a medical resident. Don’t ever leave work without looking into your rearview mirror to see what you learned and who you helped that day.”

* American Board of Internal Medicine based on Internal Medicine programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).