Irby-James Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching

When you hear faculty members talking about going “on service”, they are anticipating an incredibly busy few weeks, with days full of patient care and teaching residents and students. The time commitment is so intense that many faculty plan to accomplish little of their other activities during this time. Even dedicated teachers breathe a sigh of relief when they go off service and return to their usual, somewhat more manageable, schedules. So imagine being ward attending six months of the year. Receiving consistently outstanding evaluations from residents and students for teaching, bedside manner and clinical expertise. Accumulating a wall full of teaching awards. And, doing it all with seemingly endless energy, enthusiasm, and a smile. Frank Fulco, M.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Hospitalist, McGuire Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, and Associate Program Director, VCU Internal Medicine Training Program, and the 2011 Irby-James Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching awardee, has accomplished all of this in ten years as a faculty member in the School of Medicine.

Dr. Fulco came to VCU as a trainee in the Med/Peds joint residency program and became Chief Resident in 2000 before joining the faculty in 2001. His teaching skills won quick recognition and he has won the Outstanding Teaching in the M3 Internal Medicine M3 Clerkship award three of the past eight years, as well as the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Internal Medicine Residents six times.

Dr. Fulco constantly works to improve teaching and patient care by implementing innovative teaching strategies. He developed a training program for conducting safe and effective patient handoffs. He was instrumental in development of the Acute Care Cardiology rotation at the V.A. Dr. Stephanie Call, Associate Professor and Director, Internal Medicine Training Program explains that “Dr. Fulco led the curriculum development, supported the clinical teachers, evaluated the rotation on a daily basis, led efforts for improvement and led that rotation to be one of the top two rotations in our GME training program in the past year.”

Dr. Fulco does all of this while creating a challenging, yet safe space for learning. Former medical student and current colleague, Aaron Fox, M.D., recalls, “I have never found another attending as adept at creating a positive learning environment as Frank Fulco.”

His current students agree:

“Cheery disposition allows people to admit deficiencies, so one can improve!! More attending and residents should display this feature.” “Dr. Fulco’s bedside manner is outstanding. He is so kind and patient… If an award were to be given for best doctor-patient relationship, it would have to go to Dr. Fulco.” “The two weeks I worked with Dr. Fulco were the 2 best weeks I experienced during my two inpatient months on medicine…He made our learning environment so comfortable and made us medical students feel like an important part of the team.” “Probably the best teaching attending I had for all of inpatient medicine.”

Dr. Fulco is not only a role model for his students, but for his colleagues as well. Lenore Joseph, M.D., Associate Chief of Staff/Education at the Richmond V.A., describes Dr. Fulco as “one of the best and brightest internists I have ever encountered. He not only imparts great clinical wisdom to his trainees, he walks the walk of excellence in his own clinical practices. He leads by example in patient interactions, discussions, evidence-based and patient-centered management and documentation.”

“All of us who work in clinical medicine should strive to match Frank’s success in educating the next generation of physicians” states Jeffrey Kushinka, M.D., Associate Internal Medicine Clerkship Director. For those who worry about the future of clinical teaching, you need only look to Dr. Frank Fulco’s shining example to see how to achieve excellence in teaching and patient care.