What led you to pursue a career in medical education?
Believe it or not, I pursued my path in medical education even prior to attending medical school. I was a high school teacher with a master’s in education, working during the summer of 1979 under the auspices of the Student Conservation Association at Grand Canyon National Park. Sitting on the edge of the canyon at sunset, I made the momentous decision to attend medical school, requiring attendance at a postbaccalaureate program at Columbia University. While considering medical schools, I knew that I wanted to combine my interest in education with medicine and I therefore chose to attend Case Western University School of Medicine. Since the mid-1950s, Case had been committed to innovative educational programs with a systems-based approach to the curriculum.
What do you enjoy most about working in medical education?
There are so many aspects of medical education that make work fun and rewarding. Perhaps the most rewarding is the ability to make a difference that affects the learner as well as the patients and communities that they will serve. I also enjoy the diverse experiences and opportunities in education and the ability to work with others in creative endeavors.
What are your responsibilities in a typical week?
One of the great things about a focus in education is that there never is a typical week. In the 32 years since my graduation from medical school, I have had the great fortune to fill many different roles: course director, electives director, fellowship program director, associate dean for student affairs, associate dean for undergraduate medical education, and associate dean for continuing medical education. For the past 6 years, I have been the senior associate dean for education at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, overseeing undergraduate medical education, graduate medical education, continuing medical education, and the graduate school.
Over time I have had less interaction with students and residents as my administrative responsibilities have grown, but I know it is critical to maintain a presence with learners and I endeavor to do so in limited ways. Since our current priorities are in implementing a new curriculum and in planning for an accreditation visit, there are many days that are filled with meetings, planning, organizing, and writing. To me, the most precious responsibility is shaping a vision and bringing together a team to operationalize that vision in a collaborative and creative way, with learners, teachers, and administrators working together.
What are the different career options available for early-career GIs who are interested in medical education?
There are so many options in medical education for early-career gastroenterologists. For those working in private, group, or community practices, there are opportunities to precept students, residents, and fellows. For those working in an academic setting, opportunities abound. It is often a good idea to start within the division: get involved in teaching fellows in a clinical setting, or creating a new simulation experience or case workshop for fellows. There are opportunities to teach and supervise students. One of my first opportunities was in teaching in the physical diagnosis course. There are options to be involved in curriculum committees, admissions, CME, and to engage in educational initiatives at your institution.
The Association of American Medical Colleges has defined five areas of scholarship in education, and it is possible to get promoted to full professor – and even to attain academic tenure, as I have – if you fulfill the requirements for promotion at your institution. These areas include teaching, curriculum development, assessment, mentorship/advising, and leadership. There are also many ways to get involved in the AGA (http://www.gastro.org/trainees) and other organizations.1,2