Partners Graduate Medical Education Centers of Expertise allow residents and fellows to explore areas of health care delivery that are complementary to their medical education

Medical residents and fellows spend years learning the art of medicine and how to care for patients. But there are important areas of health care on which a typical resident will not spend much time because those areas are outside the realm of traditional specialty-based clinical education.  The Centers of Expertise (COE) program offered through Partners Graduate Medical Education (GME) provide residents and fellows at Partners hospitals an opportunity to delve into the areas of

  • Quality and Safety
  • Health Policy and Management
  • Medical Education
  • Research
  • Global and Humanitarian Health

Dr. Tiffany Chao visiting LiberiaFor Tiffany Chao, MD, MPH, a general surgery resident at Massachusetts General Hospital, experiencing health care in a more global setting is an important element of learning how to be a physician. Chao participates in the COE in Global and Humanitarian Health, and she recently traveled to Africa with a travel grant from the COE. Her trip to Liberia in November 2012 helped to develop the longitudinal relationship between the John F. Kennedy Medical Center and the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change (PGSSC) at Harvard Medical School / Children's Hospital Boston.

“It was a neat experience,” said Chao, who worked with the hospital on strengthening its surgical infrastructure and system. “As a resident, you learn how to be a doctor at MGH, but you don’t know how to be a doctor somewhere else necessarily. This program can help support residents’ careers in global health.”

Partners Centers of Expertise provide a variety of funding opportunities for residents and fellows, such as support for research projects, travel, or attendance at national conferences or other events. Additionally, senior faculty experts associated with each COE meet with residents and to provide topic-based lectures and advice on career development.  Mentoring relationships with faculty and collaboration with peers across specialties are important benefits of the program.

Chao’s goals for her recent visit to Liberia and for future visits (she plans to return in the Spring of 2013) include educating medical students and participating in Grand Rounds, facilitating research around improving surgical case load and patient flow, and participating in clinical work. She praises the COE for providing funding for travel, because it removes a major barrier to residents doing work in an international setting. Chao and other residents whose travel is sponsored by the COE in Global and Humanitarian provide blog posts about their experiences, which can be accessed at

“The cost of travel is a major barrier to international work – especially on a resident budget,” Chao says.  “The Department of Surgery pays my global surgery research salary, but the COE grant really helps alleviate some of the financial burden of pursuing my interest in global health.”

While in Liberia, Chao experienced the hardships that come with health care in a developing nation.

“There were expected bumps in the road. For example, there are not a lot of resources there –-limited laboratory studies, no CT scans and no pathology department.” Chao visited the country in 2008 during medical school and she reports that conditions have improved since then, when rolling blackouts were common.

Hundreds of residents have participated in the Partners COEs since they were initiated in 2008.  For some, the COEs have simply been a vehicle for enriching their education.  For others, COE experiences and projects have led to publications, external grant funding, and the attainment of faculty positions that allow for deeper engagement in their areas of interest.

“The support I’ve received from the COE and my department has been really integral to enabling my work,” says Chao, who is participating this year in the Paul Farmer Global Surgery Research Fellowship with the PGSSC.  “I give them a lot of credit in helping develop my global surgery career.”

Learn more about the Centers of Expertise at

Skip Navigation