College of Medicine awarded grant to foster teaching professionalism

The USF College of Medicine, in collaboration with partners at Lehigh Valley Health Network, has been awarded a grant focused on educating for professionalism by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.

The college’s proposal was one of only five grants to be funded out of 73 proposals evaluated by the groups’ Education and Training to Professionalism Initiative.  Under the grant, USF will receive $25,000 each year for two years. USF and LVHN will match that $50,000 in grant funding, bringing the program’s total funding to $100,000.

“It’s wonderful to receive this recognition from these two august organizations,” said Dr. Alicia Monroe, vice dean for educational affairs. “The bottom line is that medical education needs to change.  This initiative will accelerate our goal to effectively teach, model and train our medical students and residents to achieve their full potential as outstanding professionals.”

Dr. Alicia Monroe says USF’s program will focus on helping students put patients’ needs first.

The project partners include the USF College of Medicine Office of Educational Affairs, the USF Department of Pediatrics, and the Department of Medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network, USF’s partner for the new SELECT program for medical students.

“This grant will allow our organizations to fully integrate professionalism into medical student and resident curricula,” says internist Debbie Salas-Lopez, M.D., chair of the department of medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network. “This will give tomorrow’s doctors and health care leaders the proper tools to always put patients’ interests first.”

Co-principal investigators for the grant are:  Dr. Terri Ashmeade, associate professor of pediatrics at USF;  Krista Hirschmann, medical educator with the department of medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network; and Eric Gertner, associate chief of external programs for the division of internal medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

In the past, Dr. Monroe said, medical schools have often neglected to explicitly teach standards of professional conduct, reflecting an assumption that these things didn’t need to be taught.

“In the past, students came to medical school with this knowledge embedded, or picked it up along the way, of what a professional does, or doesn’t do,” she said. “The problem, of course, is that today this doesn’t necessarily happen.”

Medical schools are now introducing students to patient-centered care, medical ethics and values of medicine in the first two years. However, these concepts are not consistently modeled and reinforced in clinical settings. In some cases, IMAP and Macy say, neglect of these areas amounts to almost a “hidden curriculum” of teaching the opposite – telling students that professional standards aren’t valued.

USF’s program will focus on helping students put patients’ needs first. The program will include residents as well as students in both USF’s current medical student program and students who enroll this fall in the SELECT program. Teaching techniques will include small group discussions, role playing for students and simulation scenarios.

In the SELECT program (Scholarly Excellence. Leadership Experiences. Collaborative Training.), students spend their first two years taking classes as USF and then complete clinical education at Lehigh Valley Health Network. This integrated, dual-campus approach guarantees a value-added learning experience across all four years. SELECT is different from other medical school programs because the distinctive curriculum emphasizes leadership development, cost management, inter-professional collaboration, as well as high quality and safe care for patients. The goal is to prepare medical students to be physician leaders who can accelerate change in medicine and health care.

“This is redesigning how we teach our students to become professionals,” Dr. Monroe said. “It’s about major culture change.”

– Story by Lisa Greene, and photo by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications