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Johns Hopkins All Children’s Residency Program Celebrates First Graduating Class

Posted on Jun 20, 2017

Johns Hopkins All Children's Pediatric Residency Class of 2017
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The residents huddle in a tight circle. "Seniors on three," says John Morrison, M.D., Ph.D.

"SENIORS!" They shout in response to the countdown.

They came to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital three years ago as pioneers in the first new pediatric residency program in the United States since the 1970s. Over time, they formed bonds, learned skills and blazed a trail.

On this June night at the TradeWinds Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida, they would celebrate the inaugural Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Residency Program graduation, the end of their shared journey. In some ways, the milestone marks an end point, but for the graduates’ careers and the hospital’s medical education program, it’s really a new beginning.

“This is what Johns Hopkins All Children’s is all about, and you are going to be the torch bearers who carry out the vision and mission of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital no matter where you go,” Hospital Board Trustee Darryl LeClair tells the graduates at the ceremony. “From here, you will be delivering our dreams, our goal and our mission.”

‘Lone dancers’

George Dover, M.D., and others saw opportunity in starting a new residency program at Johns Hopkins All Children’s. Over the 40 years from when Dover was a resident at The Johns Hopkins Hospital through his two decades as director of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, Maryland, he saw little change in graduate medical education.

He and others created a foundation for a new model for Johns Hopkins All Children’s that would emphasize education, leadership and individualized learning paths. Residents would develop deeper knowledge and responsibility toward patient-centered care.

“There was an understanding among Johns Hopkins All Children’s and Johns Hopkins Medicine leadership that we had a unique opportunity to change how residents are trained,” says Raquel Hernandez, M.D., MPH, FAAP, director of medical education and pediatric residency program director at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Residents are often seen as the workhorses of an institution. We have the clinical resources necessary to make education the central focus of our residents’ experience.”

The secrets to the program’s success, Hernandez says, are having the entire hospital behind the program with faculty willing to do more to create learning opportunities for the residents and finding the right students to populate the initial classes, which wouldn’t have the benefit of experienced resident mentors.

“We found some pioneering lone dancers,” she says. “These are people with the courage and the bravery to get up and do something on their own and to do it without fear. Those are the people we were looking for.”

The program sought students who could be leaders, who could shape the program and who could set the standard to attract outstanding candidates for future classes.

“It’s amazing to see the people who came and took this risk and this journey with us,” says Jonathan Ellen, M.D., president and vice dean of Johns Hopkins All Children’s. “I think we were able to attract the most dynamic, interesting and impactful people that you could find. I hope we can continue to attract exceptional people who want to change the world. We need people who have that kind of aspiration.”

The Sky’s the Limit

Take a look at where the inaugural pediatric residency class will complete their training and start their careers:

  • Brianna Conforti—Vanderbilt University, hematology/oncology fellow
  • Jacqueline Crews—Johns Hopkins All Children’s, chief resident and hospitalist fellow
  • Paul Gilbert—Primary Care Pediatrics, Boca Raton, Florida
  • Mirinda Gillespie—John’s Hopkins All Children’s, hematology/oncology hospitalist
  • Nicholas Jabre—The Johns Hopkins Hospital, pulmonology fellow
  • Racha Khalaf--University of Colorado, pediatric gastroenterology fellow
  • Alexander Kim—The Johns Hopkins Hospital, genetics fellow
  • John Morrison—Johns Hopkins All Children’s, chief resident and hospitalist fellow
  • Nina Replete—University of Ottawa, pediatric intensive care fellow
  • Elena Rueda-de-Leon—Vanderbilt University, cardiology fellow


Residents say the program’s strengths are its focus on education, the ability to tailor the program to individual students’ interests and the willingness to change.

“If residents want to do research or participate in quality improvement projects, they can,” says Jacquelyn Crews, M.D., a graduate who will remain at Johns Hopkins All Children’s as a chief resident. “It’s a residency that’s devoted to helping each resident get what they want out of the experience.”

Innovative programs such as Leadership Executive Academic Development (LEAD) allow residents to learn and interact with Pediatric Academic Colleagues and Community (PACC). LEAD the PACC is an immersive annual program that brings in health care experts to focus on such topics as quality and safety, ethics and the business of medicine, preparing students for leadership roles.

“LEAD weeks were some of my favorite times in residency,” says Racha Khalaf, M.D., a graduate who will move on to a fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology at the University of Colorado. “We got to bond with each other and learn how to communicate and work better together. That’s not something you see in other residency programs.”

Residents appreciate the impact they had in shaping the program, whether it was requesting additional shifts in the Emergency Center or changing hospital practice through quality improvement studies.

“The program evolves every year based on resident feedback,” Hernandez says. “Our commitment is to stay current and fresh and never get too comfortable in what we are doing.”

Spreading the Word

As graduation night ends, the seniors celebrate with diplomas, pictures and dancing. But whether they remain at Johns Hopkins All Children’s or scatter to opportunities elsewhere, their work on the hospital’s and the community’s behalf isn’t over.

“You’ve caused some seismic change here, but you need to keep doing it,” Hernandez says, challenging graduates to tackle the biggest issues in pediatric medicine. “You are ready to make more seismic movement.”

The results of that movement are profound for Johns Hopkins All Children’s and the Tampa Bay region, says Hospital Board Trustee Craig Sher.

“Now residents, fellows, doctors and scientists from all over the United States want to be part of this,” Sher says. “You need dreamers and caring doctors to make that happen. You residents and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital have been and will continue to be a big part of our community's success.”

To learn more about the Johns Hopkins All Children’s pediatric residency program, visit

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