TAGME certification: The road less traveled

Residency Program Insider, September 6, 2011

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The following submission is from Toni Haddad, C-TAGME, program coordinator for the general surgery residency program at Henry Ford Hospital.

Over the past 10 years, the roles of program director and program coordinator have changed tremendously.  Medical education has changed.  The coordinator of today has had to embrace far more technology than in the past.  There are many more rules and regulations, competencies, and all that documentation!  As the responsibilities increased, it became apparent that the skill set required of the coordinator moved to a new level.  The position grew from one that was seen as clerical to administrative.

The Training Administrators of Graduate Medical Education (TAGME) is the national certification for program coordinators. The TAGME assessment has grown and developed over many years.  The result is a method by which the training administrator’s knowledge, skills, and abilities are assessed by a national standard. Visit the TAGME website,, to learn much more about the history of TAGME and the process by which a residency coordinator can become certified.   

Contained within the TAGME website is a history of the organization and a wide variety of information about how to become certified in the different specialties.  Most questions that one would have regarding certification can be answered, such as which specialties currently offer certification, how to apply, when assessments occur, and which documents are required. 

If an assessment is currently unavailable for a specialty, and you are inclined to pursue certification, contact TAGME’s New Clinical Specialty Development Committee (NSDC). The contact information is listed on the site.
The certification process is divided into two parts.  The first part is called the Work Effort Tool or WET.  This document, in my perspective, is similar to the PIF for the coordinator.  By the time you complete this assessment, the coordinator will have a robust document, 30-40 pages in length that summarizes everything he or she does in the role of the program coordinator.  The best piece of advice I received was from Ruth Nawotniak, co-founder of TAGME, and I pass along the advice to you:  “Get going on the WET as soon as you receive it.  Don’t wait until the last minute.”  The document is comprehensive, so take all the time you are allowed to complete it.  Upon completion, breathe and wait.   

I received an e-mail notification regarding the status of my WET about six weeks after submitting it. I learned that I would advance to the next level, which is called the Monitored Assessment Tool or more informally known as “The Written!”   I sat for my examination (five hours; the full time allowed) at the national meeting for the Association of Residency Coordinators in Surgery (ARCS) in March. TAGME also offers the assessment at local sites. 

When I turned in my examination, I was told that the assessment had a long route to travel. I took more time to breathe and wait, and wait, and wait.  Finally in June, an envelope arrived on my desk addressed to:  Toni Haddad, C-TAGME.  That moment was pure joy, relief and excitement!  Over a years’ worth of work and preparation had come to full fruition.  I earned my letters and I was now certified by the Training Administrators for Graduate Medical Education.
Why did I do it?  Was certification necessary?  Certification is not for everyone, nor is it necessary.  I did not do it expecting a pay increase, bonus or promotion.  In this economy, I did not think that an immediate financial payback was likely.  For me, it was the knowledge that I took a journey, during which I grew professionally and personally.  The coordinator position has never been just a job for me, it was a profession.  The certification made it official.  The process defined hard work, pride in a job well done and pride in my program.  I made a personal decision to set the bar higher for myself, and in turn, I now encourage other coordinators to do the same.  The ACGME tells programs that if there is not an artifact to show, it did not really happen.    I framed the certificate, artifact in ACGME language, and hung it in my office to prove that it really did!

This accomplishment was absolutely not a solo effort.  Thank you to the Department of Medical Education at Henry Ford Hospital, specifically Eric Scher, M.D., DIO and Mary Kauper, Ph.D., Director of Medical Education, who supported me and never questioned why or how (oftentimes I did!).  Thank you also to my supporters and mentors outside and within the Department of Surgery, especially Chair, Scott Dulchvasky, M.D., Ph.D.


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