This September, Mary Klingensmith, MD, becomes Senior Vice President for Procedural Accreditation at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
Over more than two decades at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Klingensmith, who is the Mary Culver Distinguished Professor of Surgery and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Surgery, has had a lasting impact on medical education both locally and nationally.
Klingensmith joined the Department of Surgery in 2000. She served as General Surgery Residency Program Director until 2012. Klingensmith earned her medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine, then completed general surgery residency and a research fellowship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
It was during residency training that Klingensmith became interested in the field of surgical education. She saw the need for residents to develop surgical skills in a safe, low-stress environment outside of the operating room. When she came to Washington University, Timothy Eberlein, MD, the William K. Bixby Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery, provided the time and space for Klingensmith to establish one of the first surgical skills labs in the United States.
“Dr. Eberlein was incredibly encouraging,” says Klingensmith. “He made it my priority to establish a surgical skills lab. He really gave me what I needed, which was mainly the permission to figure it out and find the mentorship I needed along the way. It was a great opportunity to make Washington University a leader.”
In 2001, Klingensmith founded the surgical skills lab known today as the Washington University Institute for Surgical Education (WISE). Certified as a Level 1 Accredited Education Institute by the American College of Surgeons in 2013, WISE was one of the first surgical skills labs to offer simulation training outside of the operating room.
As Vice Chair for Education, Klingensmith oversaw all aspects of education for the Department of Surgery, including medical student education, four ACGME-accredited residency programs and 14 fellowships. She spearheaded a signature aspect of training at Wash U, leading the incorporation of Early Specialization Training in cardiothoracic and vascular surgery, as well as flex-track training in all specialties, which allow senior general surgery residents to create a custom training experience while still meeting all requirements for Board certification.
“Mary has played a transformational role in creating innovative educational programs and strengthening all aspects of education in the Department of Surgery,” says Eberlein. “Her impact transcends the Department of Surgery. She has improved educational programs across the entire School of Medicine through her exceptional leadership and by example of what she has done in our department.”
As a Loeb Teaching Fellow, she helped develop a component of the medical school curriculum in which trainees practice clinical and communication skills in a hospital environment with sophisticated mannequins that simulate patients. Klingensmith has led the Wood Simulation Center in the school’s Farrell Learning and Teaching Center as associate director since 2006.
Klingensmith also served as Interim Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education at the medical school in 2016-17.
In 2018, Klingensmith became founding director of the Academy of Educators at Washington University School of Medicine. The Academy of Educators is an institutional collaboration of educators fostering a culture of educational excellence and an institutionally valued community of leaders in health science education.
“I am very proud of the Academy of Educators,” Klingensmith says. “The Academy is a very engaged, supportive group of people focused on education. We’ve built a solid foundation, and I look forward to seeing the Academy continue to grow moving forward.”
On a national level, Klingensmith holds multiple roles in surgery and surgical education through the American Board of Surgery, the American College of Surgeons, the Association for Surgical Education and the American Board of Medical Specialties. In December 2019 she was appointed Vice President of the American Board of Surgery and editor-in-Chief of the Surgical Council on Resident Education (SCORE).
As Vice President for Procedural Accreditation at the ACGME, Klingensmith will oversee the accreditation process for medical training programs across the country.
“The exciting thing is that all of the accreditation elements are on the table for reconsideration,” says Klingensmith. “I will have a lot of responsibility for overseeing accreditation not just for surgery but also for OB/GYN, urology, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, thoracic surgery, colorectal surgery, orthopedic surgery, ophthalmology and neurosurgery. All of those specialties, and the procedural aspects of other specialties will be my responsibility to represent as a voice regarding what is important to surgical and procedural training when we think about accrediting programs.”
The ACGME is an independent, not-for-profit, physician-led organization that sets and monitors the professional educational standards essential in preparing physicians to deliver safe, high-quality medical care to all Americans.
For more than 20 years, Klingensmith has been a departmental, institutional and national leader in surgical education. Her work has strengthened educational programs in the Department of Surgery and positioned the department to continue training the best surgeons for years to come.
“As I reflect on this next phase of my career, I will miss a lot of the work I’ve done in the Department of Surgery, but I’m mostly going to miss the people and how willing they were to listen to what at the time were some crazy ideas,” says Klingensmith. “One of the great things about my time at Washington University has been the people. There are faculty here who are passionate about surgical education. We have an incredible administrative support staff who provide the best possible experience for both our residents and our students. And then the residents: We’ve been so lucky to attract not only incredibly smart and skilled people, but fabulous human beings. They care deeply about their work, they’re kind to each other and they are kind to our patients. It just makes your day really pleasant to work with these people who are in it for the right reasons.”
The Department of Surgery congratulates Klingensmith on this new opportunity and looks forward to future advances in the field of surgical education. Klingensmith remains on the faculty as Emeritus Professor of Surgery. In recognition of her seminal contributions to surgical education, one of the resident teams will be named in her honor and the new education conference center on 10 Wohl will be named, “The Mary E. Klingensmith, MD, Surgical Education Center.”