Q&A: Teresa Roth, 'mother' to medical school interns, residents

UCLA Health article

Teresa Roth, coordinator of the medicine residency program for the past 31 years in the Department of Medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, is the winner of the 2014 Chancellor’s Excellence in Service Award. Roth was nominated for the award, which is co-sponsored by the Chancellor’s Office and UCLA Staff Assembly, by medical residents, faculty, administrators and other colleagues who described her as “the most pivotal individual in the Department of Medicine’s education and training,” demonstrating excellence, creativity, passion, competence and dedication to education.

In addition to the medicine residency program, Roth oversees the medical-pediatric program and 10 fellowship programs, all of which are fully accredited by Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, an accomplishment that, colleagues noted, “speaks volumes of her impressive organizational skills as well as her ability to effectively communicate, organize, and manage residents, faculty, staff and administrators."

What do you do as the coordinator for the medicine residency program?

I coordinate the Internal Medicine residency program, which entails ensuring the trainees, and residents meet the requirements to become board certified. I help take care of their lives while they are at UCLA by dealing with their curriculum, health insurance, parking, loan deferments, medical bills, schedules and evaluations. I help with anything that has to do with their education as a resident for internal medicine and even offer real-life advice if needed. I currently have 130 residents, and I oversee management of more than 200 fellows. Internal Medicine residency is three years long, and if they stay on for their fellowship — many of them do — I will have them under my umbrella for at least another two or three years, depending on the fellowship.

Many of your coworkers describe you as a mother figure to the residents and trainees. Would you agree?

I’m often the first to know good news and bad news. So I celebrate the good news with them and support them with the bad news. All I really do is remind them that we are a community and we are here to help them. My job is to help them complete their training, despite everything going on in their personal lives. I have grown children of my own and my favorite “job” is being a mother, so it’s an honor to be the “mother” to these young, talented people. They make me proud, and I’m happy to help make their lives easier.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The scope of my responsibilities has grown tremendously since 1983, when I started as a coordinator. I’ve been able to happily embrace everything new that has come along. The best part of the job is interacting with these intelligent doctors who are going to be doing good in the world. I continue to keep in touch with many of them even after they leave UCLA. As a result, I know doctors all around the world!

How were you nominated for the Chancellor’s Excellence in Service award?

I had no idea there was such an award and was honored to have been nominated by a fellow coworker, Weiling Chen in dermatology. I understand people wrote letters on my behalf for this award. I’m touched and honored to have been recognized in this way.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to retire in about two years after we have our next site visit by our accreditation organization. I hope to be more available for my family and I would like to go back to my children’s elementary school and volunteer to work with the 5-year-olds. I love seeing the light bulbs that go off in kids when they learn something new. At UCLA, I love seeing the joy the residents feel when they know they’ve helped a patient and seeing the transformation the students go through on their journey to become fabulous doctors.

What else would you like to share?

One has to be incredibly lucky to enjoy a job they’ve been at for so many years. I love my job and it’s very fulfilling for me. I’m one of the lucky ones who get to do what they really love to do.

Also a recipient of this year's Chancellor's Excellence in Service Award was Henry Charles, lead painter for Facilities Management.

Media Contact:
Tiffani Quach Mendinueto

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Tiffani Quach Mendinueto