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School of Medicine Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine profiles

September 26, 2011

Wilhelm A. Zuelzer, M.D.

Wilhelm A. Zuelzer, M.D.

VCU/VCUHS Leadership in Graduate Medical Education Award
Program Director Award

If there was a GME Program Director Superhero, Dr. Wil Zuelzer could certainly wear the cape. Dr. Zuelzer, Professor and Vice Chair of Orthopedic Surgery, has served as Program Director for nine years and has led the program through two successful Resident Review Committee (RRC) evaluations, receiving full accreditation with commendation. The RRC report complimented program excellence in documentation and evaluation, two areas that can be challenging in a busy surgical setting. While guiding his residents through a rigorous five-year training program, he maintains a busy clinical practice, active service commitment and a productive scientific writing and presentation schedule. Demonstrating his strong commitment to basic science research, he has found time to serve on four Ph.D. committees, three as primary advisor. Residents in his program typically present an average of 11 papers each at national meetings during the year.

With this level of dedication and results, it is not a surprise that colleague Brian Kaplan, Program Director, General Surgery Residency Training Program, can say that Dr. Zuelzer “is revered by both educational leaders and his residents.” Amber T. Cox, C-TAGME, Residency Program Coordinator, agrees, “He is always encouraging and supportive of our residents and staff. He really cares about people and takes the time to ask them how they are doing.”

When Dr. Zuelzer became Program Director in 2002, he incorporated multiple approaches to support resident education, including grand rounds, journal club, morbidity and mortality conferences, in-training examination review, and protected time to focus on learning. He established a weekly basic science lecture to focus on the science behind clinical care and developed a highly productive resident research program.

As Jennifer S. Wayne, Ph.D. Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopedic Surgery, and Director, Orthopedic Research Laboratory explains, “Dr. Zuelzer strongly believes…that whether or not research ultimately becomes a part of the resident’s career, they must have experience in answering important questions in the field, know what it is to perform high quality research, and be able to critically analyze the literature. Residents would often return from fellowship interviews saying their interview focused more on the research they accomplished and the role the resident played in the project, to which they could confidently answer, ‘All of it.'”

Those who have trained with Dr. Zuelzer attest to the influence he has had on their professional and personal development.

  • “During my time as a resident he was an incredibly supportive and wonderful resident director…he really cared about all of the residents as distinct people. He cared about every aspect of our lives, from how we were doing emotionally to how well we were learning.” (Dr. Victoria Keuster).
  • “His expectations of the residents were quite high, but he also displayed a degree of caring for their personal lives…this kind of leadership is the best kind because it stimulates hard work out of respect, rather than fear.’ (Dr. Scott Nasson)
  • “Dr. Zuelzer was an excellent mentor and someone I have strived to emulate.” (Dr. William Mihalko).
  • “What I find even more impressive than the breadth of (his) commitments is the characteristic energy, tenacity, and attention to detail that make him such an effective leader.” (Dr. Rob Neff).
  • “He is vigilant in making sure the rules are obeyed…I have been personally called by Dr. Z at my home to make sure that I was not coming in too early and that I was having the appropriate amount of time between shifts.” (Dr. Andrew Moritz)

Robert S. Adelaar, M.D., Professor and Chairman of Orthopedic Surgery, sums it up well: “When Dr. Zuelzer does something, he puts his heart and soul into the project and the residency has flourished because of that.” Dr. Wil Zuelzer’s commitment to excellence and his personal connection to his resident trainees is most deserving of recognition with the 2011 Leadership in GME Program Director Award.