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Elevating "the root of what we do — taking care of patients"

A new Department of Medicine professorship enables Scott Wright to spotlight and support exceptional clinicians at Hopkins and beyond
Posted October 24, 2017
  • Scott Wright, the inaugural recipient of the Anne Gaines and G. Thomas Miller Professorship, with the chair's namesake, Anne Miller.

  • David Hellmann, director of the Center for Innovative Medicine; Hopkins Medicine Trustee Sarah Miller Coulson; and Wright at the professorship installation. In addition to endowing the chair honoring her parents, Miller Coulson and her late husband, Frank Coulson, previously made a gift creating an academy for clinical excellence, which Wright directs.

For years, Anne Gaines Miller enjoyed having Philip Tumulty, MD (Med '40) as her primary care physician. When he died, Miller needed to find a new doctor, but she couldn't find one who showed the same kind of devotion to patient care. Hopkins Medicine trustee Sarah Miller Coulson, knowing her mother's keen interest in helping Hopkins produce more doctors like Tumulty, made a gift to endow the Anne Gaines Miller and G. Thomas Miller Professor in the Center for Innovative Medicine.

Scott Wright, the chief of internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, was named the chair's inaugural recipient on the recommendation of David Hellmann, chairman of Bayview's Department of Medicine and director of the Center for Innovative Medicine.

"At Hopkins, and at many other academic medical institutions, promotions are mainly based on research accomplishments. Being a truly excellent clinician often means there is limited time to focus on research," Wright says. "The gifts and support from Sarah and [her late husband] Frank were critical in placing more emphasis on the root of what we do — taking care of patients."

Wright has long worked for the advancement of clinical education and practice at Hopkins and for the past decade has served as the director of the Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence, established by another generous gift from the Coulsons, as well as Anne Miller, in 2006. Sarah Miller Coulson's sister, Leslie Miller, and her husband, Richard Worley, have also been dedicated Hopkins supporters.

The academy's first order of business: defining and measuring clinical excellence. Wright and his colleagues published a paper in a September 2008 edition of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, explaining clinical excellence as mastery in eight domains: reputation, communication and interpersonal skills, professionalism and humanism, diagnostic acumen, skillful negotiation of the health care system, knowledge, scholarly approach to clinical care, and passion for clinical medicine. In 2009, the Miller Coulson Academy began admitting members from across Hopkins medicine through a rigorous nomination process rooted in those eight domains and initiating them at an annual spring ceremony. The academy's now 70-plus members host electives for medical students, coach young physicians, and present at special Miller Coulson Academy-branded Grand Rounds, among other activities.

"The biggest impact the academy has had on me is providing examples of others who have been successful on the clinician educator path of promotion, showing Hopkins that this and other clinical paths hold a lot of value for the institution," says Margaret Chisolm, vice chair for education and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The first member of her department selected for the Miller Coulson Academy, Chisolm was inducted in 2010 and has benefited from the multidisciplinary connections and scholarship opportunities the academy provides.

"Before the Miller Coulson Academy, the very best physicians didn't even know each other, and certainly did not have a platform to come together," Wright says. "This organization gives them an opportunity to meet and share best practices across specialties."

The academy's next step is to facilitate those interactions outside the Hopkins walls. The new professorship has helped Wright take steps toward that goal, giving him time to develop a website for the organization called CLOSLER. (The moniker, short for "Closer to Osler," is an homage to William Osler, a Hopkins legend considered the first to bring medical education from the classroom to the bedside.)

Expected to launch in early 2018, CLOSLER will share content developed by Miller Coulson Academy members and other clinical leaders with medical trainees and physicians more broadly. The website, Wright says, is one way the Miller Coulson Academy, and the Anne Gaines and G. Thomas Miller Professorship, can impact the lives of physicians and patients well beyond Baltimore. 

"Anne told me that when she was in school, her mother would occasionally give her a penny to buy a pretzel at recess. The single stipulation was that she would have to break it into three or four pieces and share it with classmates," Wright recalled in remarks at his professorship installation. "As I carry forward the legacy of Anne and Tom, I promise to break all pretzels into multiple pieces so that their stories, and this professorship, enable us at Hopkins to carry forward their values rooted in generosity and giving."

To learn more about the Miller Coulson Academy and the Miller Professorship, or to make a gift to the Center for Innovative Medicine at Johns Hopkins, please contact Ashlyn Sowell, senior director of development.