2016 Blue Bird Circle Award

David K. Urion, MD, FAAN

Profile written by Scott Pomeroy, MD, PhD and Kiran Maski, MD


David Urion, MD, FAAN

David Urion was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and grew up near Chicago where his father worked in public relations and his mother was a high school English teacher. Commitment to education runs deep in his family; his grandmother was a special education teacher for second graders for nearly 50 years. He fondly remembers spending summers with his raucous, extended family in Louisiana, a type of “summer camp” in the bayou that contributed to his deep appreciation for the benefits of gatherings that foster interpersonal connections.

David graduated from Dartmouth College in 1976, having spent a year of his college tenure living on a farm and distinguishing himself as a Rufus Choate Scholar and recipient of the Chase Peace Prize. After graduating from Stanford Medical School in1980, he completed an internship in internal medicine at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, then came to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) in 1981, where he has been since. After a year of internship in Pediatrics, he trained in child neurology in the Longwood Area Neurology Training Program, serving as Chief Resident from 1984-1985. He joined the faculty at BCH and Harvard Medical School in 1985 as Director of the Learning Disabilities/Behavioral Neurology Program, which continues to the present, and from 1998-2008 served as Director of Network Services for the Department of Neurology, organizing the department’s presence at the various off-Longwood clinical sites. In 2007, he was appointed as the inaugural Director of Education for the department, overseeing teaching of both GME and CME programs to the present.

David holds the Charles F. Barlow Chair at BCH and is currently an Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. As Director of the Child Neurology and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Residency Programs for the past six years, David has trained over 30 residents and oversees all aspects of teaching and training within the Department of Neurology at BCH. As the current President of the Professors of Child Neurology, David has been active in shaping education on a national level. His leadership in resident education is further evident by his appointments to the Child Neurology Milestones Committee by the Neurology Residency Review Committee of the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), Graduate Education Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), and Chair of the Graduate Education Committee of the Professors of Child Neurology. In these roles, David has exercised significant influence nations and core curriculums used by child neurology residencies nationwide. For his commitment to education, David has received a remarkable number of awards including the Teacher of the Year in Child Neurology by vote of the BCH residents in 1997, 2000, 2008, the Harvard Macy Fellowship in Medical education in 2003, Hall Fellow of Concord Academy in 2005, and the David Weiner Award of Boston Children’s Hospital in 2007.

David combines his knowledge, experience and creativity to develop innovative teaching approaches and content to child neurology training. He has created a case-based ethics curriculum for trainees, nurses and social workers in which real ethical issues encountered in neurology practice are discussed. He implemented an interwoven core curriculum for trainees that integrates neuroanatomy, physiology, pharmacology with core disease topics. To ensure, all residents can view these popular lectures despite duty hour restrictions, he developed a “NeuroWiki” where video recordings of lecture content are archived. This year, he has developed a clinical research component into the resident core curriculum that includes teaching of research design and analysis. Lastly, with grant funding from the AAN, David developed a simulation course through the Program to Enhance Relational and Communication Skills (PERCS) for residents to learn management skills for difficult situation such as breaking bad news. Through all his curriculum development processes, David avidly solicits feedback from trainees and faculty to ensure these projects evolve to meet changing needs.

David’s expertise in medical education extends internationally. In addition to developing a number of sites for international rotations for BCH neurology trainees, David has cultivated a decade long relationship with the University of Valparaiso Medical School, Chile for a neurology trainee exchange program. This program allows an exchange of child neurology residents annually that promotes education, cultural competence and professional growth. Furthermore, core lectures at BCH are broadcast by video to child neurology residents in Chile bimonthly. David’s efforts in developing this international rotation were recognized by the Chilean Society of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Neurology (SOPNIA); he was made an honorary member of SOPNIA and given a teaching award by the SOPNIA president for his contributions to Chilean child neurology education last year. Professional development has been central to David’s mission in medical education. Informed by his experiences through the AAN and ACGME, David developed an innovative evaluation system that incorporates the required milestones specified by the ACGME and Neurology Resident Review Committee in an electronic format (platform by Greplytix, Inc.) that can be completed by evaluators easily and regularly. This novel evaluation system allows attendings to provide timely and meaningful information to ensure consistent improvement and encouragement to residents through their rotations. This tool has been a welcome change at the BCH child neurology program and he aims to refine it for all child neurology programs nationwide. More recently, David’s work on professional development has extended to address physician burnout at the resident level with focus on development of resiliency skill training.

Of note, David recognizes that medical education requires skill and commitment that needs to be fostered in faculty members to ensure high quality training for residents. In addition to his advisory role to residents, David has created a number of workshops for faculty members on effective teaching and feedback skills. At BCH, David has created a child neurology workgroup that is comprised of fellows and junior faculty interested in medical education and promotes their interests in various areas of neurology education/training. Faculty projects bore out of this workgroup include a quality improvement curriculum, improving awareness and exposure to child neurology early in medical education, developing international rotations for residents, and the development of a feedback toolkit to improve faculty-resident communication. Such mentorship and encouragement of junior faculty ensures continued progress in and passion for medical education within our child neurology training program.

David Urion truly exemplifies what a Child Neurology and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Residency Program Director should be. He is an excellent teacher, innovator, deep thinker and genuinely kind person constantly striving for improvement in faculty, residents and himself. Despite his busy schedule, he occasionally finds time to enjoy gatherings of his extended family staying in a yurt that he and his wife built on the island of North Haven in the Penobscot Bay of Maine.