Vascular Surgery Resident Receives Grant to Test Curriculum Aiming to Improve Patient-Clinician Communication

Congratulations to Carly Sobol, MD, a second-year integrated vascular surgery resident who recently received a Trainee Research Fellowship Award in Education from the Association for Academic Surgery (AAS) and the Association for Academic Surgery Foundation. The award will provide Dr. Sobol with $30,000 for one year to conduct full-time research with an AAS member.

Dr. Sobol’s research interests are rooted in methods to enhance patient-clinician communication in the surgical setting.

“While the vast majority of surgeries are largely beneficial, it’s not uncommon for patients to be overwhelmed by the experience and struggle to recall what their surgeon told them,” explains Sobol. “Additionally, surgeons can feel immense moral distress surrounding conversations with patients and families about surgery and policymakers worry that miscommunication may lead to over-treatment.”

Working under the mentorship of Gretchen Schwarze, MD, MPP, the Morgridge Professor in Vascular Surgery, and Courtney Morgan, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Vascular Surgery, Dr. Sobol’s project will pilot test the Fundamentals of Communication in Surgery (FCS) curriculum, a newly developed five-year curriculum to train surgery residents on core communication skills for engaging with patients and families. The FCS includes training in empathic response skills and frameworks that support conversations about informed consent and serious illness, specifically Best Case/Worst Case and Better Conversations, both of which were developed and have been tested by Dr. Schwarze and her team.

With funding from the AAS award, Dr. Sobol will evaluate the impact of the FCS on resident performance at six surgery residency programs across the U.S. Her study will not only determine the scalability of the FCS training across a range of general surgery training programs, but will also provide her with experience that is vital to her career development.

“My goal is to become an academic surgeon who conducts and researches educational efforts to improve patient communication, with the ultimate aim of best serving our patients and their families. I am grateful for the opportunity to conduct this project with the support of the AAS, my mentors Drs. Morgan and Schwarze, and the University of Wisconsin,” said Sobol.