By Darlene Whetsel, Vanderbilt University
We recently learned from our ASPE administration staff that long time ASPE member, Carol Spamer, retired as Manager of the Teaching Clinic in the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. Carol is known by many ASPE members, so we asked her to share reflections on her career as a medical educator. We also wanted to give her an opportunity to celebrate her involvement with ASPE.
Carol – We at ASPE wish you all the best in this next phase of your life!
I stumbled into this line of work by being in the right place at the right time. I started my career in the Teaching Clinic at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in 1997. (This was several years before ASPE was born.) My first opportunity to delve into the expansive SP world occurred a year later. It was February 1998, and I was asked to attend a week long workshop at Southern Illinois University in Springfield. Coming from the desert southwest, being asked to leave the warmth of home during the heart of winter made me pause. Fortunately, that session was filled (no longer available), so I was able to sign up for a workshop later that spring. It was a wonderful introduction to Standardized Patient Methodology; I was very privileged to hear Howard Barrows give a presentation.
In 2000, I took the next big step in pursuing professional development outside the confines of my institution. I traveled to Galveston, Texas where I attended the beginnings of what would become ASPE. There was so much information presented from such an energetic, dynamic and interesting group of people who were determined to move this fledgling profession into the 21st century. I was hooked!
I have been fortunate to attend almost every ASPE conference from Virginia Beach, Virginia (2003) to Atlanta, Georgia (2013). It takes a lot to pull off a conference of this size, but fortunately there were wonderful ASPE members who volunteered every year to help put it all together. Each one was special, but the 2006 conference in Tucson, Arizona is close to my heart; even the weather in Tucson that August was wonderful. Although many years have transpired, some members at the Atlanta conference were still reminiscing about their experience in Tucson.
Each conference I attended “recharged my batteries” and allowed me to build relationships with some extraordinary people. These interactions with my peers reminded me that the challenges I faced at my institution were not unique. They also made me realize how willing ASPE members are to share their knowledge, ideas, and expertise. I hope ASPE maintains this closeness even as it grows and branches out.
Watching ASPE become an international organization by welcoming members from all over the world has been very exciting. I look forward to seeing where ASPE goes next.
I was very blessed to have the opportunity to devote my life to such an interesting and empowering profession. But now, I am ready to pass the baton to the extremely capable young woman who is taking my position in the Teaching Clinic. I know ASPE members will welcome her at this year’s conference in Indianapolis just as they welcomed me. Before I go would like to pass along this advice to her (and others new to this unique field), “Know that you are not alone! Do not hesitate to ask questions because ASPE is a great resource. You don’t have to be a star to have an impact. There is tremendous value in working behind the scenes while you get your feet wet. So don’t worry; what you do today will have importance far beyond this moment.”
I do wish to acknowledge my debt to my colleague, boss, mentor and friend – Liz Leko. I am so grateful that she hired me in 1997 thereby making it possible for me to have such a wonderful career. She had so much confidence in me, and she was always a pillar of support. She even taught me how to “pull a rabbit out of the hat”….often at the last minute! And, we all know how essential this skill is in this profession.
I am sure I will always be recruiting potential, new SPs for the program even during my retirement. Whenever someone asks, “Where did you work?” it starts a whole conversation about the wonderful contribution Standardized Patients make in teaching medical students and other learners. But, for the moment, I am enjoying the flexibility of not setting the alarm clock …unless I’m going to the airport!