Advancing Trainee Leaders and Scholars (ATLAS): A New Initiative From Academic Medicine

Academic Medicine recently launched the Advancing Trainee Leaders and Scholars (ATLAS) initiative, which I will oversee as the journal’s inaugural Assistant Editor for Trainee Engagement. So, you might be wondering, who am I and why ATLAS? I hope this blog post will help answer those questions!

Who am I?

I’m a 3rd-year internal medicine resident at NYU Langone Health in New York City, and am planning to pursue a career as an academic hospitalist. As mentioned above, I will serve as the inaugural Assistant Editor for Trainee Engagement, overseeing the ATLAS initiative. My term will last until summer 2020, when we plan to use a competitive process to select my replacement.

My path to medical education started with being drawn to medicine after witnessingmy mother go through treatment (twice) for breast cancer. I completed my undergraduate training in bioengineering at the University of Washington. After graduation, I moved to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, working for a year in public health as a Luce Scholar (a once in a lifetime experience!). I subsequently moved to London, United Kingdom, as a Whitaker International Fellow, working on a blood test for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and pursuing master’s studies in translational medicine.

I then went to the University of Michigan Medical School where—during a curricular overhaul as part of the American Medical Association (AMA) Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative—I got bitten by the medical education bug. I found community and purpose working with peers and faculty. Educational research and national work through the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Organization of Student Representatives solidified my interest in medical education. I became a regular reader of Academic Medicine and had several submissions rejected! Ultimately, with students from two other institutions, we published “Engaging Learners to Advance Medical Education,” a 2017 Academic Medicine commentary1 (and an associated Academic Medicine Podcast2) on tapping trainees to advance medical education.

Moving from Ann Arbor to New York City brought new adventures: my family welcomed a baby boy, and I’ve “doggy paddled” to stay afloat in a sea of new clinical responsibilities as an internal medicine resident, relishing team leadership and teaching opportunities. I’ve worked locally on coaching programs, quality improvement projects, and a hospital medicine training pipeline. I am a coinvestigator on our NYU Transition to Residency Advantage program, part of the AMA Reimagining Residency initiative.3 I’m excited to work on several national projects exploring high-stakes exams and the undergraduate-graduate medical education transition, including Re-examining Exams: NBME Effort on Wellness (RENEW)4 and the Invitational Conference on USMLE Scoring (InCUS) initiative.5


Students, residents, and fellows in medicine, nursing, and pharmacy are a pillar of academic medicine. The ATLAS initiative aims to engage these trainees in the scholarly publishing process and feature their voices more regularly in Academic Medicine. By engaging trainees as Academic Medicine readers and authors, we hope to help create the next generation of medical education leaders and scholars.

The journal already features many trainees. Trainees regularly post on Academic Medicine’s blog AM Rounds (e.g., see here and here) and podcast (e.g., see here and here). Recent calls for trainee-authored Letters to the Editor received tremendous response, with 26 letters published in 2019.6 Trainees represent over 7% of all authors and coauthor over 18% of all publications in the journal as of 2016, both significantly increased over the prior 15 years.7 ATLAS represents Academic Medicine’s commitment to formalizing and accelerating this growth in trainee engagement with the journal.

Nuts and Bolts of the ATLAS Initiative

In the short term, we will foster trainee engagement through several continued efforts: learner-directed calls for Letters to the Editor, additional AM Rounds trainee blog posts, and more trainee podcasts. We are creating a centralized web-based resource for trainees: the ATLAS Hub (still a work in progress!). And of course, I am working with journal leadership to ensure efforts are trainee-centered. Longer term, we envision Twitter chats for trainees, trainee-directed activities at the AAMC annual meeting, and additional trainee-directed journal offerings. We will build on trainees’ demonstrated publication record in the humanities, while also targeting areas of scholarship that trainees haven’t traditionally published in.7

How to Get Involved: Follow! Listen! Read! Contact Us!

What do you think about the ATLAS initiative? Comment below or email us ( if you have creative ideas for the ATLAS initiative, including ways the journal can better reach trainees or resources that would be helpful to you as a burgeoning medical education scholar.

By: Jesse Burk Rafel, MD, MRes


1. Burk-Rafel J, Jones RL, Farlow JL. Engaging learners to advance medical education. Acad Med. 2017;92:437–440.

2. SoundCloud. Engaging “Youthful Critics”: The Learner Voice in Medical Education Scholarship. Academic Medicine Podcast. Accessed June 14, 2019.

3. American Medical Association. AMA Reimagining Residency Initiative. Accessed June 16, 2019.

4. National Board of Medical Examiners. RENEW Task Force Seeks to Support Examinee Wellness. Accessed June 14, 2019.

5. United States Medical Licensing Examination. The Conversation Continues: Exploring Possible Changes to USMLE Score Reporting. Accessed June 18, 2019.

6. AM Rounds. Call for Letters to the Editor From Student and Resident Authors. Accessed June 12, 2019.

7. Munzer BW, Griffith M, Townsend WA, Burk-Rafel J. Medical student and resident authored publications in Academic Medicine from 2002 to 2016: A growing trend and its implications. Acad Med. 2019;94:404–411.