Patricia S. O’Sullivan is Director, Research and Development in Medical Education, Center for Faculty Educators at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and Endowed Chair of Surgical Education. At UCSF she directs the Teaching Scholars Program and oversees the doctoral program in health professions education and provides leadership for the master’s program and education curriculum for students, residents and fellows. She leads efforts in faculty development for those interested in education and educational research. The faculty development program received the international 2016 ASPIRE for Excellence award from the Association of Medical Education in Europe. Dr. O’Sullivan has led the Research in Medical Education Section of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the RIME Program Planning Committee and the Division for Professions Education of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Her educational research studies have collaborators from medicine, nursing, and health related professions. Her work has been recognized as a Fellow of AERA, the 2011 Merrill Flair Awardee of the AAMC Group on Educational Affairs, 2014 Distinguished Career Award from AERA Division I, 2018 Career Achievements in Medical Education Awardee from SGIM, and 2018 Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Awardee from UCSF.
How did you make your way into becoming a professional educator?
Like many, I never intended to be an educator in the health professions. After finishing a masters in chemistry, I participated in what might be best described as an “instant teacher” development program resulting in a brief career as a science teacher at the University of Hawaii Laboratory School. There I discovered I was curious as to how to get students to love chemistry and physics as much as I did. Consequently, I decided to pursue a doctorate in education. Finishing that degree and uncertain as to what to do next, the University of Texas Health Science Center called my institution asking for someone who could teach statistics and research design. I could do that and I got the job despite my total ignorance of medical education. And, I have stayed in this career for 40 year at a number of institutions moving along with my husband’s career.
What do you find most rewarding about being a professional educator?
I am sure that my answer is a common one, the people. I have worked with so many amazing students, residents, fellows and faculty. It is a pleasure to see how they develop from a passion for teaching to becoming an educator. I enjoy meeting with them, thinking with them, learning from them, talking about irrelevant things with them and ultimately producing something together. It is fun to watch their careers mature. Despite changing institutions I have been fortunate to stay in contact with many with whom I have worked and am pleased to contribute an answer to a question now and then. With interactions with so many people, no two days are alike and I never stop learning. That certainly makes for a rewarding career.