PDF Print Email

Family Medicine Teacher of the Year
Pooja Saigal, MD – University of Chicago NorthShore Family Medicine Residency

Dr. Pooja Saigal joined the faculty at University of Chicago NorthShore Family Medicine Residency in August 2011 after completing her faculty development fellowship at Cook County Hospital. A great teacher and a lifelong learner herself, she has completed additional fellowships in Integrative Medicine and Medical Education, Research, Innovation, Teaching, & Scholarship. She is currently in process of the AMFRD National Institute for Program Director Development Fellowship.

Not only does she have a great mind for teaching, but she also has a great heart and spirit as a mentor who has inspired many residents and faculty colleagues over the past ten years. She was nominated for the IAFP’s highest teaching honor by current resident Wala Tout, MD, who said, “Dr. Saigal has made immeasurable contributions to every resident and alumnus of our program. She is a master clinician who manages to teach novice and advanced learners something new with every patient encounter, in a patient and compassionate way that helps them improve their own confidence.”

Without a live IAFP annual meeting to present the awards, IAFP President Tabatha Wells, MD joined a NorthShore Family Medicine Residency meeting via Zoom to present the award (which had been delivered to the program prior to the meeting). "It’s clear that Dr. Pooja Saigal has inspired many.  Beyond her brilliance as an educator, she’s also a dedicated supporter for her residents," said Wells.  "She invests her time and energy, ensuring that they rise to meet their potential, find avenues to fuel their passions and deliver on their dreams."

She runs the NorthShore didactics curriculum and content on new developments in medicine, such as high quality COVID-19 lectures. She created an innovative biannual simulation curriculum to train residents to manage urgent patient scenarios. She has created and regularly updates summary handouts on common topics; these are widely used by current residents, faculty, and alumni.

“Dr. Pooja Saigal is fellowship trained in integrative medicine and approaches both patients and residents in a holistic way. She cares about each trainee as a whole person and wants to see us succeed both personally and professionally. During her advising sessions, she often checks in with residents about their sleep, diet, family, and hobbies. Because she takes the time to get to know us as unique individuals, we feel comfortable approaching her when we need help with a challenging patient encounter or a personal crisis,” said Dr. Tout.

Dr. Saigal graduated from Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and completed her residency training at the University of Chicago NorthShore Family Medicine Residency. Upon her graduation from the residency, Dr. Saigal was immediately hired as junior faculty at the same program. “She has almost single handedly created the curriculum for all of our educational tracks including integrative Medicine, Sports Medicine, Women’s Health, Urgent Care, Adolescent Medicine, Faculty Development and others,” says program director Miriam Whiteley, MD. “She designed and implemented a series of urgent care simulation scenarios, with a variety of cases which have been part of our ongoing assessment of and criteria for advancement of our rising PGY-2 residents. Through her guidance, the use of small group, case-based discussions, and interactive workshops are a regular teaching strategy in our didactic series.”

Her first inspiration to pursue a career in family medicine came from her mother, Dr. Shashi Saigal, also a family physician. In accepting her award, she relayed that those values that her parents taught her, if she worked hard, they wanted to facilitate her passions.  She brought that same philosophy to her own relationships with the residents.  "My residents are like family, and I care deeply about their professional development as well as their personal growth and fulfillment. I feel privileged that they give me the opportunity to teach and guide them. Yet, I feel equally privileged to learn from them and to get to know them, as they are truly exemplary clinicians and wonderful human beings." Many current and former residents shared their thoughts with IAFP and often cited her mentorship, compassion and genuine support of their clinical skills and personal well-being.

Former resident Benjamin Sanfilippo-Cohn, MD is now a family medicine educator at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and wrote to IAFP with his support for Dr. Saigal. “She is easy to talk to, always available and simply fun to work with. She is an example of a family medicine physician who can do it all and has nobly chosen to dedicate her set of skills to teaching the future of family medicine. Her style continues to remind me of what medical education should be as I currently work with medical students – supportive, inspiring and never demeaning.”

“Not only did Dr. Saigal teach me good evidence-based medicine, she taught me how to be compassionate to my patients and myself, taught me how to push past adversity, and showed me the endless opportunities that family medicine has to offer. Now, here I am three years later preparing to graduate. I’ve passed my FM boards, found passion in lifestyle counseling during residency, and am preparing to proceed to an Obesity Medicine Fellowship on the other side of the country. For this, I have Dr. Saigal to thank,” wrote Gessa Suboc, MD, Class of 2021

"Pooja has been very supportive of my academic interests in creating a POCUS curriculum in our residency program. I first shared these ideas with her in my second year. She heard me out and then immediately came up with a plan to nurture my interests and passions. She saw how the Faculty Development Track that she leads could be an avenue for me to pursue these ideas. She pushed me to attend trainings, acquire an ultrasound probe, conduct research on POCUS and begin the process of creating a formal curriculum in our program. As a result, POCUS has become a core academic interest of mine and will be a part of my career moving forward," relayed Amol Naik, MD, Class of 2021 graduate.

It's not surprising that after three years leaning from a great teacher, Dr. Naik was selected by the IAFP Family Medicine Educators committee as the IAFP Resident Teacher of the Year. IAFP was able to reunite and honor both the Teacher and Resident Teacher of the Year together, as Dr. Naik joined the virtual presentation from his new practice in Urbana. President Tabatha Wells, MD, FAAFP presented both awards during a NorthShore Family Medicine meeting on November 3 providing a fun reunion for Dr. Naik with his residency colleagues and the opportunity for everyone to celebrate Dr. Saigal.  During the presentation, Dr. Tout summed up Dr. Saigal as the mentor "who sees the best in everyone.  Mostly importantly she knows every single resident, and brings out their passion for family medicine.  Her faith in us becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."


Last Updated on Friday, November 12, 2021 03:15 PM