Nassar, Resident Coaching Program Receive Patient Experience Award

August 1, 2023

Dr. Aussama Nassar

Stanford Medicine’s Patient Experience Award was conferred upon Dr. Aussama Nassar in appreciation of his “exceptional contributions to the enhancement of patient experience through the Resident Coaching Program.” Nassar a Clinical Professor of Surgery in the Division of General Surgery’s Acute Care Section and the director of Stanford Surgery’s Communication Coaching Program for Residents.

“There was a lack of teaching—and learning—in non-technical skills like interpersonal skills, communication, and professionalism. Those skills are very hard to teach and very hard to give feedback on particularly in the procedural specialties,” said Nassar.

Inspired by a coaching program in the Department of Pediatrics, Nassar worked alongside the Department of Neurology to modify the curriculum and create a program specifically designed for surgeons. Three years later, the coaching program now has six coaches that meet with residents five to seven times per academic year.

“The coaches receive a lot of training. Each month we have a faculty development coaching session with peds and neuro. We’ve had guest speakers who talk about everything from eliminating bias to psychological safety,” said Nassar. “We also have executive coaches who observe the coaches and give feedback.”

Nassar says the curriculum is very much trainee-driven with each resident deciding what they want to work on. He says common topics include obtaining patient consent, delivering bad news, and speaking up in the OR.

“I think the coaching program has been tremendously beneficial for the residents, specifically in further fostering mentorship from attendings,” said General Surgery PD Resident Dr. Maria Korah. “The program really helps us develop the hidden curriculum of residency, which include all the unspoken skills we acquire along the way such as how to be an efficient trauma captain, how to navigate a difficult team interaction, or how to balance team education with clinical duties.”

Making the structure informal so that coaches and trainees can take advantage of teachable moments is also a priority of Nassar’s.

“They're really available to coach us at any time, about anything,” said Korah. “I have had so many coaching sessions that started off as a simple 'hi' in the hallway after a chance run-in and left me with so many pearls of wisdom that have helped me develop as a surgeon, educator, and team leader.”

Despite all their success, Nassar says “When it comes to improving, the sky is the limit.” He is collaborating with the S-SPIRE Center on a mixed methods research project which will evaluate the program and—he hopes—provide data-driven directions to enhance the program further.

Nassar says that since its founding in 2020, the program has expanded to include Emergency Medicine and Dermatology. He’s also in “early talks” with the Department of Orthopedics to start a communications program as well. However, he says, “to my knowledge, we are the only communication program for surgeons in the world.”

Media Contact

Director of Communications


As the Director of Communications for Stanford Surgery, Rachel Baker tells the stories of her department's faculty, staff, and trainees. With the help of an amazing team of content creators, she produces and curates original articles, photos, videos, graphics, and even podcasts.She works personally with each division, center, program, and lab within her purview to define their audience and reach their goals while maintaining a consistent brand voice. She hosts quarterly professional development workshops open to all AEM web authors--please email her if you'd like to join! She also offers both 1:1 and group education to faculty and residents on a variety of topics including media training, using social media to advantage, and presentation refinement. Rachel holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism with a focus on photography from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. A transplant from the DC-area, she still misses foliage and argyle but has happily adopted the official NorCal hobbies of visiting wineries, hiking local trails, and eating avocado.

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