Bethany Ballinger, MBBS, is the Program Director for the University of Central Florida College of Medicine (UCF COM), Emergency Medicine Residency Program at Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee, Florida, and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the UCF College of Medicine.
She hails from England, where she attended medical school at the University College London School of Medicine, followed by a 3-year emergency medicine residency and then by a fellowship/specialist registrar posting in Emergency Medicine at Oxford University Teaching Hospital. After several years of practice in England, Dr. Ballinger moved to America and did a second emergency medicine residency at Orlando Regional Medical Center. She was then recruited as an inaugural faculty member for the EM residency at Florida Hospital.
Dr. Ballinger's zeal to educate physicians of tomorrow to excel in today's digital world, led to her recruitment at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine (UCF COM). UCF COM's program epitomizes innovation, high-tech learning tools and a pioneering spirit to educate young doctors and scientists in a new and better way for the 21st century. Dr. Ballinger was one of the founding faculty for the medical college, and the college's mission reflects her vision.
As a founding faculty member of the UCF COM, she had the vision of developing the new medical school's GME component. Specifically, a residency that would combine excellence in clinical skills with the humanity of the compassionate physician to produce outstanding patient centered care. She was thus naturally chosen to lead the new EM residency for the UCF COM, based at Osceola Regional Medical Center.
Dr. Ballinger is renowned for her experience in evidence based medicine (EBM), clinical informatics and patient safety. Her passion for EBM blossomed while she was still at Oxford. Committed to promoting emergency medicine internationally, Dr. Ballinger took this expertise around the world. Notable endeavors include the creation of a "Virtual Health Sciences Library" at the Hue College of Medicine and Pharmacy, in Hue, Vietnam, and launching the "Practising Evidence Based Medicine" course there. One of the American Association of Medical College's (AAMC) current initiatives is "Best Practices for Better Care," a multi-year initiative to improve the quality and safety of health care.
As an early proponent of patient safety education, Dr. Ballinger implemented the LCT in patient safety at UCF COM, because she is passionate about educating doctors who take the entire patient experience into account. Under her leadership, the UCF COM was one of only 10 schools in the world to participate in the World Health Organization's implementation study of the Patient Safety Curriculum. Integrating technology into medical education, Dr. Ballinger's has successfully taught students to be proactive in looking for possible safety hazards in real time such as dangerous drug interactions using their iPads. Her research and innovations are frequently highlighted at the national AAMC and American Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) meetings.
Dr. Ballinger is active in organized medicine. At the regional level, she is a founding member of the Florida State Committee on Patient Safety Education, and on the academic affairs committee of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians Education. At the national level, she holds the post of American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Ambassador to the United Kingdom. She is a member of the ACEP International section's education committee, and also serves on the communications committee of the International Federation of Emergency Medicine.
Dr. Ballinger is a beloved educator and not surprisingly has been recognized by numerous awards, including the Faculty of the Year for the Emergency Medicine Residency Program, and the Florida Hospital Compassion and Excellence in Medical Care Award, for which she was chosen amongst a group of over 2500 qualified physicians.
And in September, "National Women in Medicine Month" the American Medical Association honored Dr. Ballinger as one of the nation's most inspirational women in healthcare. This year's AMA celebration carries the theme, "Women in Medicine: Born to Lead," and honors 80 physicians who have offered leadership, mentoring and support to increasing the number of women in medicine.
For our forum this month, Dr. Ballinger shares her passion for developing women healthcare leaders and helping them find the balance for success.
In Other Words....with Bethany Ballinger, MD
Growing up in rural England in the 1970s, I told everyone I wanted to be a doctor - just like the kind man who came to our country home whenever I was sick. People just looked at me, patted me on the head and said, "Yes, of course you do, dear." At that time, all of our community's physicians were men. That's changed. Today, half the students in medical schools are women. Yet females make up only about 15 percent of the leaders in healthcare. The question is why? And just as importantly, what are we doing to change those facts?
My specialty - Emergency Medicine - has always been male-dominated. I still have patients who ask, "When is the doctor coming in?" when I enter their exam room. When I joined Osceola Regional Medical Center in 2014, I was the only female full-time emergency physician. But that's changing - because many of us worked together to make it so.
Today, I lead the ER residency program at the hospital, a partnership between the UCF College of Medicine and Osceola Regional. And half of the core physician faculty in our graduate medical education program are women. Dr. Jennifer Waxler serves as the emergency department's regional medical director and Dr. Larissa Dub is the department's assistant medical director. Osceola Regional has made it a priority to diversify its leadership. That's something we all can and must do.
The lack of women healthcare leaders is a nationwide problem. Recent studies show that women make up only about one-third of the nation's full-time medical school faculty positions. Only 15 percent are department chairs. Only 16 percent are medical school deans. The most common leadership position for women across the nation is medical director. There are very few women leaders at the top of the healthcare arena.
As physicians caring for an increasingly diverse community, we must look at why more women are not in leadership positions. Half of the country's newly graduated MDs are women. That means half of the residents in our hospitals are female.
So what happens to women physicians along the way? Why don't they become leaders after they finish their training? What are their concerns and decision points? Where do we lose them? Work-family balance may be one of the concerns.
Can our workplaces - hospitals, clinics, outpatient surgery centers - work to help accommodate those concerns? Have we, as leaders, done everything we could to mentor young female physicians on work-life balance?
I am the mother of a 14-year-old son. I hope my journey can be an example to other physicians - both female and male - of being a healthcare leader while raising a family. Each of us is a role model for others. We need to start acting that way and sharing our experiences.
I have a responsibility to highlight women physicians who are leaders and to encourage qualified women to take on leadership positions. I have the responsibility to work within my hospital to develop and promote women leaders. And I have the responsibility to show women doctors they have every opportunity available to them.
We are only limited by our imaginations. We have come a long way since my childhood in England. But we must do more. As women, we have unique traits that serve us well as care-givers.
Those same characteristics make us strong leaders. We just have to work together to make more of those opportunities happen.