Dr. Douglas S. Smink was born and raised in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. Smink is the youngest of three sons to his mother, a medical librarian, and his father, a retired general surgeon. Ever since he realized he couldn’t be Batman, Smink always knew he wanted to be a doctor. He shared a lot in common with his father and was exposed to the field of surgery at a young age.
While in college at Amherst College, Smink was more interested in playing ice hockey than he was in his premed studies. As a matter of fact, he spent a year after college living and playing professional ice hockey in Holland prior to pursuing his medical career. Upon returning to the US, Smink attended the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania where he discovered his passion for general surgery. “Surgery is intense - you meet a person, need to identify the problem while trying to connect with them so they trust you enough to do surgery on them. It demands the highest level of trust and I genuinely love making those connections with patients.”
After spending an additional year at Penn doing research, Smink trained in general surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital followed by a fellowship in Minimally Invasive Surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Smink moved back to Boston and returned to BWH as an attending surgeon and became the Associate Program Director of the General Surgery Residency. “I had no idea education was going to be as important in my career as it’s become,” reflects Smink.
It was also during this time that Smink became fascinated with simulation and became the surgery liaison at STRATUS. Smink was eager to integrate simulation into surgical training to foster better training for surgeons coming out of the department’s residency. Born a natural problem solver, he achieved the integration over time by doing the following:
• Built simulation programs teaching technical skills
• Recruited BWH faculty to teach and develop additional programs
• Ensured surgical courses were taught on a weekly basis even if it meant teaching them himself
(Side note: Most of Smink’s courses are still being taught at STRATUS)
Two years later, Smink became the Associate Medical Director of STRATUS and in 2011, he became the Program Director of the General Surgery Residency.
Smink describes his role as program director to be the most rewarding yet challenging aspect of his professional life. Smink likes engaging with the residents and having an impact on their career development. He fondly notes that having the opportunity to spend five to seven years with each resident and watching them blossom into chief residents is an absolute privilege. “I love taking care of my patients but every year, I love knowing that I played a role in our graduates’ career development; the impact grows exponentially that way.”
In 2011, CRICO (a medical professional liability insurance), approached BWH with interest in launching an interdisciplinary team training program and appointed Smink to pilot it in surgery. Much to his surprise, participants enjoyed the program and CRICO expanded “OR Team Training” beyond the pilot at STRATUS. With deep interest in sports and playing on teams, Smink found the program fascinating to teach and recalled it as his first encounter with non-technical skills in surgery and at STRATUS.
Always enamored by master surgeons, Smink realized that the best surgeons had a combination of stellar technical and non-technical skills. The core components of non-technical skills are decision making, situation awareness, leadership, teamwork, and communication. In 2013, Smink joined forces with NOTSS* expert, Steven Yule, PhD (Director of Education & Research at STRATUS) and co-established the Non-Technical Skills Laboratory designed to build a community of practice around developing assessment tools, testing the relationship between technical skills and patient outcomes, and scaling interventions to improve patient safety. Using Yule’s expertise, non-technical skills became one of the primary focuses of interdisciplinary team training.
In 2016, Smink earned the Editor-in-Chief title of Journal of Surgical Education. In this role, Smink feels privilege to have an influence on surgical education around the world and to be on the cutting edge of surgical education. In 2017, Smink became the Associate Chair of Education enabling him to act as a liaison between 400+ students / trainees and the Department of Surgery.
When he’s not performing surgery, training and mentoring residents, doing research, and leading a journal, Smink enjoys coaching youth hockey teams, playing golf, listening to audiobooks, rooting for the Eagles, and spending time with his family.
*NOTSS = Non-Technical Skills for Surgeons
Hockey in Holland, Autumn 1993
Please help us welcome Dr. Egide Abahuje, surgeon from Kigali, Rwanda! Dr. Abahuje will be spend the next two years at STRATUS as a research fellow.
Dr. Abahuje earned his medical degree and completed his residency in general surgery at the University of Rwanda. He was trained by the Royal College of Surgeons to teach basic surgical skills. Passionate about education, Dr. Abahuje is fascinated by the impact medical simulation has on trainees and their practice.
During his fellowship, Dr. Abahuje hopes to improve his research skills, curriculum development, NOTSS, and learn how to manage a simulation center. Outside of surgery, research, and education, Dr. Abahuje enjoys swimming, tennis, and jogging. He is also excited to explore the United States with his wife and son.
Through 3 phases of construction, STRATUS has improved its functionality in a few different ways:
Our reception area has been renovated to allow our staff to quickly greet and engage visitors
Behind the scenes, a wet lab has been incorporated. The addition of a wet lab allows our creative minds the tools and space necessary to develop 3D simulation models.
New to STRATUS, we've gained space across from Occupational Health where many of our administrative staff now reside.
Lastly, our skills area has seen the biggest change. Offices have been broken down enabling us to build an additional conference room. We added a second dividing wall; our skills room can now be converted from one large room to three smaller rooms each outfitted with LED monitors for presentations.
On May 24, 2018, STRATUS celebrated and honored its 2017-8 Simulation Educator of the Year Award recipients. Winners were selected to recognize their year-long commitment to creating high-quality, simulation-based courses for trainees, staff, and faculty.