Ann Van Heest, MD, Receives The Graduate Medical Education Lifetime Achievement Award

Ann Van Heest, MD, and Susan Culican, MD, PhD

We are excited to announce that Ann Van Heest, MD, professor and vice chair of education, has received The Graduate Medical Education Lifetime Achievement Award for her noteworthy and lasting contributions to education in the University of Minnesota Department of Orthopedic Surgery.

The Graduate Medical Education Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2020. It is presented by the Office of Graduate Medical Education (OGME) to members of the GME community who, in the span of their GME career, have made noteworthy and lasting contributions, provided outstanding service and have dedicated significant time to improving GME at the University of Minnesota. They represent the best in the field. The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a member of the GME community at the University of Minnesota.

“Dr. Van Heest was selected for her commitment and contributions across the entire spectrum of GME,” says Associate Dean of Graduate Medical Education Susan Cuilican, MD, PhD. “She has supported the orthopedic surgery residency at the University of Minnesota as a Program Director, the Department and the greater UMN GME community as a Vice Chair of Education, orthopedic residents and programs across the country with her work in advocating for women in orthopedics and on the ACGME Orthopedic Review Committee, and the broader community of educators through her scholarship on resident learning and assessment – some of which I read to inform my own research in GME. Dr. Van Heest is an advocate for learners and an invaluable resource for the GME community.”

Dr. Van Heest has made significant contributions to the department, University, and state of Minnesota throughout her tenure, and we are honored to have her on our faculty.

She completed medical school and orthopedic surgery residency at the University of Minnesota and went on to the Harvard Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery and Pediatric Hand Surgery Fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital/Children's Hospital in Boston.

In 1993, she returned to the University of Minnesota Department of Orthopedic Surgery as a faculty member. Since then, the treatment of children with hand and upper extremity disorders, clinical research, and education of future orthopedic surgeons have been the pillars of her work.

“In the history of Graduate Medical Education at the University of Minnesota, I cannot think of a more appropriate person to receive this award,” says Department of Orthopedic Surgery Chair Denis R. Clohisy, MD. “She has exceptional performance as a leader, education administrator, and most importantly, a passionate, one-on-one educator with all types of learners.”

Dr. Van Heest served as the department’s residency program director for 17 years, with one of her core initiatives being increasing gender diversity in orthopedic surgery. With leadership from Dr. Van Heest and a growing number of female faculty, the department has had 25 percent female residency graduates over the last decade. Dr. Van Heest has also been active inThe Perry Initiative, a program that exposes young women to careers in orthopedic surgery and biomechanics. She has served on its board of directors since 2015 and hosts annual Perry Initiative events in the department. She has been a long-time member of the Ruth Jackson Orthopedic Society (RJOS), an organization dedicated to promoting the professional development of women in orthopedics throughout all stages of their careers, and served as the 2009-2010 RJOS President.

A major initiative during her tenure as residency program director was to increase the residency complement from six to eight positions per year and expand rotations to include TRIA Orthopedic Center and Regions Hospital. As two residents were phased in annually over the span of five years, the curriculum was completely restructured to the framework present today. 

“Making changes to orthopedic residency education to reflect the breadth and depth of knowledge needed to be a competent orthopedic surgeon is an important role for the PD,” reports Dr. Van Heest.  “It has been my privilege to serve the University as a leader in orthopedic education over the past three decades.”

Recognition for her education leadership efforts have also included national awards. Dr. Van Heest earned the Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award in 2011, the highest recognition for an ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) program director for her work advancing all aspects of orthopedic education. She also received the American Orthopaedic Association's (AOA) Distinguished Clinician Educator Award in 2018.

Dr. Van Heest has also been a leader in national orthopedic organizations. She is serving on the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) from 2016-2026, and is currently vice-president of the ABOS. She also is the second President-elect of the AOA, the national leadership organization for orthopedic surgery. She was recently appointed to the ACGME Residency Review Committee (RRC), which is responsible for accreditation of orthopedic surgery residency and fellowships in the United States.

We are incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Van Heest as a leader and educator within our department.

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