Everyday remarkable - behind the scenes with fellowship coordinator Molinda Henry

Fellowship coordinator Molinda Henry

Editor’s note: This is the first article in our new Everyday Remarkable series, which tells the stories of staff members within the Department of Medicine. Nearly 350 staff members on our team are dedicated to educating the next generation of physicians, advancing health, facilitating and conducting life-changing research, and ensuring the smooth operation of the largest academic department in the UW System. We’ll go behind the scenes with staff to give Vital Signs readers a glimpse into the roles, responsibilities, challenges, and joys that they encounter every day. Have a suggestion for a person or job that you think we should cover? Contact us.

The educational path toward becoming a physician specializing in an internal medicine subspecialty is extraordinarily long, and it is capped by fellowship programs. These advanced clinical training experiences prepare early-career doctors in the art and science of fields such as endocrinology, cardiovascular medicine, or nephrology.

Among the 23 internal medicine subspecialties recognized by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or ACGME (some of which are variants of one another), 16 correspond to fellowship programs offered through the UW-Madison Department of Medicine. Each one is brought to life by a fellowship coordinator who bridges the worlds of learners and educators. Coordinators knit together different corners of the healthcare system and medical school, making certain that specialty physicians-in-training have access to resources that they need to further their development.

Molinda Henry, M Ed, serves as fellowship coordinator for the UW-Madison Department of Medicine Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Fellowship Program. “This profession is not something that a lot of people have heard of….I would say is that it's like a hub. I coordinate individuals, keep people together, get resources, and get people tied with resources and [with other] people,” she said.

Fellowship coordination requires communicating with a wide range of physicians and staff members, because educational experiences occur in different inpatient settings — University Hospital, The American Center, the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital — as well as ambulatory clinics throughout the region and beyond. The continual interchange suits Ms. Henry. “I'm a people person. I'm in service, and curriculum and instruction is my vibe, it's my field.”

The roots of her interest in medicine trace back to her teenage years, when she enlisted in the US Air Force as a senior in high school with the intent of becoming a medical technician and eventually training as a physician. “After I was recruited and had signed my life away, I was told I had to be 18 to go to Medical Technician tech school,” she said (having signed the recruitment agreement just prior to her eighteenth birthday). Instead, she engaged in on-the-job training at Davis–Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

Fellowship coordinator Molinda Henry“I was trained to work in virtually every place in a hospital and clinic setting,” said Ms. Henry. Her military service included work with the Human Reliability Program (now called the Personnel Reliability Program), which assesses personnel reports and medical records to ensure those who perform nuclear-related duties are of sound mind and body on the job. “That experience was an eye-opener,” she said.

A wordsmith and singer-songwriter, Ms. Henry is currently working on multiple book projects. One is a book of poetry entitled Rough Edges. Another is a memoir called Defying Gravity that describes how a love of education influenced her family, which has resided in Madison, Wisconsin for several generations. “My father William Taylor taught physical education and was one of the first black teachers in Madison, and my daughter Emuye Taylor Reynolds was the second black woman to graduate from Brown University with a degree in computer science,” she said.

Understanding human behavior is a passion for Ms. Henry, and one that is well-suited for medical education and administration. “I get joy out of working with people. For me, it's a sociological study all of the time of people, people's problems, people's issues. I get to do that every single day.”

Her passion for group inter-dynamics is helpful as well, because the graduate medical education administration involves working with a fleet of colleagues in the division that is home to the program, as well as department, school, and hospital offices of graduate medical education. She explained, “All of our work is important. I'm a team member. All of the coordinators are [team members]. Our role is the success of our learners, with the ultimate goal of producing effective practitioners in the medical field.”

Fellowship coordinators are also leaders, spearheading efforts to ensure that their program is accredited and re-accredited by the ACGME. They analyze feedback from fellows and faculty educators, using the information to recommend ways in which curricula can be strengthened. And they keep an endless array of logistical details in order, from facilitating scheduling of a whirlwind of rotations, on-call schedules, and teaching calendars to administering and proctoring the yearly in-training exam for fellows.

The detail-oriented nature of the job requires several qualities, explained Ms. Henry. “Chief among them is patience, as well as self-reliance, problem-solving techniques, interpersonal skills, and a willingness to serve others.”

Her own motivation to serve is based in a deep sense of connection to humankind – an ideal shared by the medical profession as a whole. When asked what she would choose as a magic wish-for-a-day if it could be granted, Ms. Henry said, “I would have us all love each other unconditionally. If that would happen for 24 hours, I believe it would change the world.”