Before joining the staff at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, Kim Gilliam, Ed.D., worked for 15 years in the university’s Career Center. She helped to guide undergraduate and graduate students at the university to choose careers that fulfilled their passions. But she knew she could better utilize her skills in counseling and higher education by coming to work at a professional school, and came to the medical school in December 2015.
Gilliam is an alumna of Wright State University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Master of Science in Business and Industrial Management Counseling, and a Master of Science in Community Counseling. She earned a Doctor of Education from the University of Cincinnati.
“I hope that my work impacts medical students by teaching them self-preservation skills that can be practiced throughout their entire lives,” Gilliam said. “Students will say to me, ‘I thought of you the other day when I was getting overwhelmed and I told myself to stop and breathe.’”
Gilliam oversees a myriad of student services, including financial aid, clinical scheduling, and tracking immunizations, among others. She also serves as the ombudsperson for the Boonshoft School of Medicine, serving as an impartial party for students to report mistreatment or areas of conflict.
Gilliam teaches in the Professional Skills dimension of Clinical Medicine in the medical school’s WrightCurriculum. She covers topics such as leadership in the exam room, giving and receiving feedback, burnout and suicide awareness, and awareness of Myers-Briggs personality types.
Another important aspect of her job is developing and implementing the Pearls of Wisdom Equal Resilience (POW=R) program. It is designed to increase general medical student wellness and mitigate or prevent anxiety, depression and burnout. About 60 students complete the Medical Student Resilience Training certificate each year.
In addition to her full-time position at the Boonshoft School of Medicine, Gilliam teaches as an adjunct professor in educational leadership and human services at Wright State. She has taught graduate counseling courses at the University of Dayton, and Gilliam also consults on team building and development in corporate settings.
“I don’t really think about balancing it all. It doesn’t seem like work to me,” Gilliam said. “I thoroughly enjoy teaching students. Knowing I am training other professionals to help is my ‘why’ in life.”
She frequently gives advice to medical students to help them along the way. The most common piece of advice is to take things one at a time. Many of the things we fear or worry about, she notes, are things in the past or events we think are going to happen. “It is important to have goals, but focusing on the here and now allows you to pay attention to the process – the ‘how’ you are going to reach the goal,” Gilliam said.
Another piece of advice that Gilliam gives to medical students is to not compare their accomplishments with those of others. She tells them to be happy with their decisions and efforts, and to celebrate what they achieve—it is important to find those things that make you happy.
“I try to teach students to know their ‘why.’ They know their ‘what,’ and that’s being a medical student,” Gilliam said. “It is staying connected to their ‘why’ that will give them the motivation they may need in difficult times to push forward.”
When she isn’t helping to guide medical students toward better resilience, Gilliam enjoys reading. Her favorite textbook is Resilience: Mastering Life’s Challenges, which is used in her teaching. For fun, she enjoys learning about human behavior. Profiling books from the Federal Bureau of Investigation have made it to her reading list.
“I enjoy running with coworkers. We are running the Gauntlet 5K with military-inspired obstacles,” Gilliam said. “And, of course, we will be running in the Air Force Marathon — only the 10K though.”
— Daniel Kelly