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Carter and Black 1Each fall, hundreds of applicants from across the country go through the rigorous interview process to become a resident in the UAB Heersink School of Medicine Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine Residency Program.

The competition is fierce, and for good reason. Our anesthesiology residency program is ranked among the top programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and it boasts 21 residents each year who are given the opportunity to advance in their endeavors through research, education, and clinical practice.

To see why this program is so successful and continues to grow and flourish, it’s important to recognize the leaders responsible for the intricate details of the program and the changes they have implemented to make the program stand out among its competitors.

Igniting the Flame

Vice Chair for Education Susan Black, M.D., is a professor and served as program director for the anesthesiology residency program for 15 years. After completing an extensive educational background – attending the Heersink School of Medicine, serving her residency and fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, and holding faculty roles at the Mayo Clinic, Loyola University, and the University of Florida – she returned to her alma mater to lead the next generation of anesthesiologists.

During her time at UAB and as residency program director, Black has worked tirelessly to create an educational environment that is well-rounded and seeks to develop all aspects of the residents’ career goals. Success cannot happen without change, and it’s under her leadership that many adjustments have been made to mold the program into what it is today. Some areas to credit to her leadership include:

National Recognition: Under Black’s leadership, the program has gained national attention, with residents matching from across the United States and residents finding fellowships and practice opportunities nationwide.

Program Expansion: Not only has the residency program grown to an impressive 21 residents per class, but the fellowship programs have expanded to five accredited fellowships (18 positions per year) and two unaccredited fellowships. The new clinical base year (PGY-1) has also been created, and the education leadership has expanded to include a full-time Ph.D. medical educator.

Research and Education Growth: As program director, Black developed two research tracks: Resident Mentored Research Experience Track (RMRET) and the Systematic Training in Anesthesia Research (STAR) Program. In terms of education, all trainees focus on
quality improvement and patient safety, with the option to participate in a certification program leading to Certification in Medical Quality (CMQ).

Leadership Development: Black implemented the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Program, a unique opportunity for residents to pursue master’s degrees in Health Administration, Healthcare Quality and Safety, Public Health, and/or obtain certification in Medical Quality and Transesophageal Echocardiography during their residency. (Since its inception, 50 residents have successfully completed the LEAD Program.) She has also mentored junior faculty in leadership roles specific to education and advocated to increase recruitment for URiM (Underrepresented in Medicine) and female candidates.

Carter and Black 3Passing the Torch

As Black recently stepped down from her role as residency program director, she passed the torch to more-than-capable hands. Tekuila Carter, M.D., assumed the role on Sept. 1, 2021, and is looking forward to mentoring and training the next generation of anesthesiologists.

“The success of our anesthesiology residency belongs to our people,” Carter says. “Our residents and fellows are an enthusiastic, dedicated, and exceptional group.”

Carter began her career path in medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, followed by her residency at the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University, and obstetric anesthesia fellowship at Vanderbilt – where she was also a faculty member before coming to UAB in 2015. She has truly led by example during her time at UAB in many capacities including, but not limited to:

Medical Education: Carter has served the department in many leadership capacities; most recently as the associate residency program director and simulation director for anesthesiology simulation.

Mentorship: Since coming to UAB, Carter has served others within the program – 29 medical students, 10 residents, 3 fellows, and 5 junior faculty – as a mentor. She also impacted other medical students as a lead mentor as part of the Heersink School of Medicine’s formalized Learning Community.

Community Involvement: Carter has carried her leadership expertise into the community as well. She served on the Young Professional Board for the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center, where she helped to raise funds for the Healthy Happy
Kids Childhood Obesity Project. She also served as a member of the Mineral District Medical Society, an affiliate of the National Medical Association.

Lighting the Future of Anesthesiology

Both Black and Carter have shown, through their actions, leadership, and direct involvement with the department as well as the community, how vital collaboration and camaraderie with others are to creating a well-rounded, impactful education experience with the department.

For all anesthesiologists, Carter emphasizes the importance of growth and perseverance. “You never know if you can do it unless you try, and everyone needs help to be successful,” she says. “None of us are perfect, and making mistakes is part of the learning process. However, you must learn from them so that they are not repeated.”

“Learn from the anesthesiologists around you – identify aspects of their clinical practice, communication, and leadership that work well and incorporate them into your practice,” says Black when offering words of wisdom for other anesthesiologists. “Find your niche, that aspect of your profession that you enjoy, and excel at it.”