Dr. Kendra Van Kirk Receives National Award for Residency Program Leadership

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Recognized for her dedication to teaching, patient advocacy, and anti-racism in medicine, Kendra Van Kirk, M.D., M.A.T., assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has been honored with a national award for leadership in residency education.

“I am deeply committed to enhancing the learning experiences for our residents,” said Dr. Van Kirk, who is associate program director of the combined Internal Medicine and Pediatric Residency Program at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital. “We need to go beyond the walls of a hospital and into the community if we hope to address the needs of our individual patients.”

Dr. Kendra Van Kirk

Dr. Van Kirk has received the 2021 Brendan P. Kelly, M.D., Award from the Med-Peds Program Directors Association (MPPDA) in advance of the organization’s annual meeting in March. The award is given annually to an associate program director of a med-peds residency program for teaching excellence, collaborative leadership, and compassionate patient care.

“We are so proud of Dr. Van Kirk being honored with this well-deserved award,” said Olveen Carrasquillo, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine and public health sciences, and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine. “As a resident and faculty member in our division, she has been a tireless advocate for her patients, for social justice and health equity in our community, and ensuring these values are passed down to our trainees.”

Dr. Van Kirk taught sixth-grade science in Baltimore before deciding to become a physician. During her residency at UM/Jackson, she created innovative educational programs, including a comprehensive ambulatory rotation for med-peds interns, and helped to restructure the entire residency curriculum through block scheduling. She became chief resident in the med-peds program before joining the Miller School faculty in 2017.

Along with her work as associate program director in the med-peds program, Dr. Van Kirk is also director of the Urban Health Track and the Medical Educator Pathway for internal medicine and med-peds residents.

As associate program director she created a med-peds ambulatory curriculum, expanding the primary care aspects of the program. Dr. Van Kirk works one-on-one with residents to develop their skills as educators. “I teach our residents how to create measurable objectives and assessments for their lessons,” she said. “My goal is to help develop our trainees into physician educators as well as well-rounded clinicians.”

Dr. Van Kirk has also focused on ways to improve patient care at all levels and expand access to health care for the South Florida community. “She is a driving force to ensure that as a residency program we are accountable to our rallying call to truly make earnest steps against racism in medicine,” said Jonathan Tolentino, M.D., associate professor of medicine and program director of the med-peds residency program. “Dr. Van Kirk is truly a leader among leaders and has been serving a role bigger than she has ever realized.  In her short academic career, she has already garnered the respect and admiration of well-seasoned physicians and she remains highly sought after by leadership in the department and the institution for her expertise.”

Reflecting on the 2021 Brendan P. Kelly, M.D., Award, Dr. Van Kirk said she was honored to be recognized by her colleagues for her commitment to residency education.

“It is a privilege to care for our patients, and we must be active proponents for better health care in the communities we serve,” she said. “I will continue to do whatever I can to help our residents and students develop the skills and attitudes to deliver compassionate patient care to all in the years ahead.”