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Blog Interview: Dr Marion McCrary, GME Coaching Leader, Shares her Path and Pearls

Periodically, I interview a physician that will give you tips to enjoy medicine, find fulfillment, relieve stress, and more. (I'm never an affiliate for them. I'm always just a fan). Today, seemed like the perfect day to host Dr Marion McCrary who is dedicated to primary care and physician wellbeing since we just concluded our What is Physician Coaching? blog series. Specifically, last week, we looked at the many possibilities of incorporating coaching into graduate medical education. She is an internal medicine physician and GME coach leader at Duke. Enjoy reading our interview session: 

Marion, tell us about your journey as an internal medicine physician into leadership at the ACP, wellbeing leader, coaching, podcasting, and narrative medicine facilitator. 

Thanks so very much for the opportunity to tell you about my journey.  I am an outpatient internal medicine physician and a national board-certified health and wellness coach based in North Carolina. 

I am also a proud member of the American College of Physicians (ACP) and have been for more than 20 years after joining as a senior resident.  I am thankful that several mentors encouraged me to continue to be active in this organization. The ACP was the first place I saw physician well-being discussed and I chose to make one of the national meetings my own personal wellness meeting when I felt stuck.  After that, I started to give myself permission to do things differently and explore. 

At the same time, I started training as a coach, I became a trained ACP Well-being Champion. I became a coach to help my patients make health changes and quickly learned this way of talking with others could have a much wider reach.  With learning these skills, I became more curious and less judgmental. I had a different way to help patients, doctors, and those interested in leadership.  I became more creative and started writing, podcasting, and facilitating communities. It has been so fun to share this with others and it has given me a sense of encouragement, excitement, and confidence.

What observations have you made about the changes in the world of well-being, especially as it pertains to graduate medical education? 

I have been a physician for over 20 years.  As I was finishing training it was the time of initiation duty hour restrictions. Things have changed. 

My reason for coaching students, residents, and fellows is to start at the beginning of training. It is the first step in changing the culture of medicine. I want to teach them it is ok to have this conversation and we are not alone in this experience. I want to pass along my experience for their benefit. 

We are also starting to realize that the individual is not the root cause of non-well-being, rather it is the system that needs to change to encourage well-being

How have you seen coaching impact individuals, micro-cultures, or larger organizations?

Oh wow! How has coaching not helped? In large societies, it has created levels of support and safe spaces for members to share and grow. I have had the opportunity to coach for the ACP as well as the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA).  It personally has helped me connect with physicians across the world in an authentic way.

Tonya, we have both been involved in coaching for systems and institutions where well over 100 individuals have participated, inherently changing the conversation and culture on a large scale by having a huge impact locally and more broadly.  Individuals gain perspective with a different mindset and new tools and strategies. They have a new way of seeing and approaching their world. And, they have colleagues who have gone through the same program who now have a shared experience and language that creates a support system.

Can you tell us a little about the details of Duke’s coaching program? 

One of my roles is the Associate Director of Coaching at Duke for Graduate Medical Education.  It was an honor to join in about five years after it was started.  The foundation was a 1:1 coaching program where volunteer faculty were trained in coaching skills and paired with a resident physician in a longitudinal relationship. With the addition of myself and another physician coach, the program has expanded to provide group professional development coaching to chief residents, fellows, and groups of residents who are participating in the program. There is an evolving curriculum of topics available to explore.

What lessons have you learned?

In my almost 2 years in the program we have tried different strategies and have learned several things along the way. One, ask the physicians what would be most valuable for them rather than assuming what they might want to have coaching on.  We have adjusted our curriculum along the way.  Also, there are times to consider “opting in” vs “opting out”.   And lastly, keep it simple so there is time for reflection and for discussion.  One of our goals with group coaching is to help them work better as both an individual and as a team.  Giving them a safe place to explore these topics together facilitates this.

What tips can you share with those interested in bringing coaching into their training programs?

Tips: 1- Decide if you want internal vs external coaches.  Which will give you what you want for buy-in, safety, and cost? 2- Decide if you want to coach only the in-training physicians or also the faculty.  By training both, you can speed that culture change I alluded to earlier. 3- Determine how much you are willing to invest in a program that can have a powerful impact. 4- How will you prove that impact? And 5- Explore different funding strategies.

What other things can you share with my readers regarding finding joy in life as a physician in our current circumstances?

Ohh- what a great open-ended question! How do you find joy in life as a physician in our current circumstances?  Everyone has different circumstances and thoughts and feelings about these circumstances. 

I have found personally that being able to go back to my “why” to clarify my priorities has helped me shape my path.  For me, I needed to build confidence in my strengths and change my expectations of myself and others to see my world in a different light.  I decided that I did not have to do it all right now. Instead, I could see that there are different seasons of my life and because of that, I could make decisions about what was important right now and I could be more ok with saying “No, not yet.”

Anything else you’d like to share? 

In addition to doctoring and coaching, I have rekindled a childhood interest in writing and sharing.

I have become enamored with the concept of narrative medicine, and after doing workshops and having several personal experiences, I have co-created an opportunity to share this with others.  Along with two ACP colleagues, I started the Writers’ Wellness Workshop to invite others to explore story and narrative medicine. We meet at 8pm eastern on the first Wednesday of the month.  If you would like to join us, please email [email protected] for the recurring zoom link.  We would love to have medical students and physicians come.

As part of my exploration of creativity during the pandemic, I became for a short time a co-host of an established podcast.  In the fall of September 2021, 3 other female ACP physicians and I started the ResetMD podcast to have well-being conversations with physicians. Thank you, Tonya, for being a recent guest to share your story and what has worked for your well-being. We just crossed the 100-episode mark! We would love to have you listen in.  If you would like to be a guest, contact us at [email protected]


Please tell our readers how they can find you. 

 I hope your wheels are spinning about how to uplevel your residency program's coaching support. 

Have a joy-filled week!  Tonya

Learn more about my hybrid coaching program for family medicine residencies.  


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