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School of Medicine profiles

October 28, 2016

Paula A. Ferrada, M.D.

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Irby-James Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching

“Makes every person feel important.” “One of my favorite people on this planet.”

“We all love Dr. Ferrada!”

These comments are typical of those that Paula Ferrada, M.D., Associate Professor of Surgery, Director, Surgical Critical Care Fellowship Program, Department of Surgery, and Director of the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit (STICU) receives from her students. Dr. Ferrada joined the VCU Faculty in 2010 after serving as Chief Resident at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and completing fellowships in Surgical Critical Care at the University of Pittsburgh and in Acute Care Surgery at the University of Maryland R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. Dr. Ferrada has contributed over 100 local, national and international presentations, and over 40 peer-reviewed publications and 17 book chapters to the scientific literature. In 2016 she was elected to membership in Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honors Society.

Former resident Keri Weigle, M.D., Clinical Instructor at the Pfleger Liver Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA states, “Some of my greatest experiences during residency were in the trauma bay and OR with this great doctor and professor.” Caitlin Francoisse, M4, describes Dr. Ferrada’s teaching style, “She is so attentive to us as learners, constantly quizzing medical students and pushing us to challenge our understanding. She is one of the only attending physicians I’ve encountered who will ask each learner in the room a different question and then use these answers to start a discussion that benefits everyone.”

Dr. Ferrada’s excellence in clinical education has been recognized on the international level. She is the Chair for Education and Research for the Pan American Trauma Society and sits on the National Education Committee for the Society of Critical Care Medicine. She was recently chosen to run the mentorship program for young Fellows for the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Dr. Ferrada is especially interested in mentoring women and others from underrepresented-in-medicine backgrounds and started a chapter of the Association of Women Surgeons at VCU.

Dr. Ferrada became an ACS Ultrasound instructor while still a resident and training students and colleagues in its use to improve patient care is one of her passions, one of her passions. “She has been relentless in increasing utilization of the ultrasound in the ICU for objective evaluation of fluid status. In the trauma bay, the use of ultrasound through the Focused Abdominal Sonography for Trauma (FAST) exam has become a fixture and has improved the safety of acutely injured patients by identifying those with abdominal or pericardial bleeding,” explains Rajesh Ramanathan, M.D., PGY-5 Resident in General Surgery.

Dr. Ferrada has co-led a new educational approach for weekly D&C (Death and Complications) conferences. A root-cause analysis model has been adopted to analyze adverse outcomes. Dr. Ramanathan describes the results. “This approach has contributed to changing the D&C culture from a culture of blame to a culture of quality improvement and created an environment where students and residents are comfortable speaking more freely and participating in discussions.”

Dr. Ferrada has completed graduate certificate classes in the VCU Teaching in Medical Education (TiME) Faculty Fellows Program, taking classes in the evenings. She believes in teaching her students “to “believe in their capacity to affect patient care and understand their significance in each patient’s life.” As another resident has said, “She has the ability to draw out the best in those with whom she works through her actions and words, which elevates the productivity of the entire team.”

As Krista Terracina, M.D., PGY-4 General Surgery resident recalls, “She has said that it is good to care and to feel something for our patients, and never to lose that compassion, because it is strength.” It is for Dr. Ferrada’s dedication to excellence in clinical teaching, and for that strength, that we honor her today.