SELECT MD students share summer leadership projects

When Jennifer Chevinksy asked a group of fellow classmates, professors and physicians, what values meant the most to them in the medical profession, their answers were similar. Some chose honesty. Others chose respect. Most chose integrity.

Chevinsky was one of the 18 USF Health Morsani College of Medicine SELECT MD program students who presented her summer immersion project on July 18 to the medical school faculty. The question segued into Chevinsky’s presentation on incorporating values-based practice into medical education, an idea that encompasses the SELECT program’s goal – to develop leadership skills and emotional intelligence in order to enhance patient care.

SELECT, medical students, summer leadership projects, Jennifer Chevinsky

For her project at the University of Warwick in England, SELECT MD student Jennifer Chevinsky created an instruction manual to train students in values-based practice.

 The differentiating part of the SELECT program, said Morsani College of Medicine Dean Stephen Klasko, MD, is the fact that students are given a chance during their first year of medical school to take a break from nonstop studying and delve into the “belly of health care.” 

 These summer projects gave the SELECT students that opportunity to work firsthand with leaders in their profession on projects geared toward a more personal patient experience.

“The students really got to look at what leaders of health care are going to have to deal with,” Dr. Klasko said. 

 While some of the SELECT students spent the first six weeks of their summer working on projects at USF and down at Tampa General Hospital, Chevinksy worked in England at the University of Warwick. She was instrumental in creating a 50-page instructors manual that would train students in values-based practice, a type of medical care that involves dealing with patients in a respectful and sensitive way based on their chosen moral principles. The manual is the first of its kind and will be used in medical schools once it is published, she said.

“Values are synonymous with ethics,” Chevinksy told four of her classmates and six medical school faculty members. “We want the patients to feel like they’ve been listened to.”

SELECT, medical students, summer leadership experiences, presentations

The 18 SELECT MD students (Class of 2015)presented and were evaluated on their summer leadership projects.

Students admitted into the SELECT program were chosen for their high level of emotional intelligence, as well as their grades and test scores. It is this passion for quality patient care that Chevinksy and all of the SELECT students tried to communicate through their summer project presentations.

 Sasha Yakhkind, another student in the SELECT inaugural class who presented to a group of 12, worked on a project in the psychosocial oncology department of the Dana-Farber Boston Cancer Institute. The project, entitled Coping with Cancer 2, centered on a study that found end-of-life care options differed between white people and African-Americans who were diagnosed with terminal cancer.  White people preferred more relaxed methods like hospice, Yakhkind said, while African Americans preferred more aggressive cancer treatments toward the end of their lives.

Because she spent most days conducting and organizing audio interviews with patients, Yakhkind said, she learned the importance of background data and research in understanding patient care.

Some students worked with USF doctors in determining more efficient ways of collecting and organizing patient information, including apps for iPhones and iPads that would provide easier access to medical forms. Other students worked on projects that focused on diet and exercise.

SELECT student Yasir Abunamous took part in a project that explored the concept of minutes of exercise per week as a fifth vital sign. Many patients whom Yasir spoke with said they wished physicians provided more guidance on exercise. Addressing a specific, numerical figure would  facilitate a dialogue between physicians and patients about physical fitness, he said.

SELECT, medical students, summer leadership projects

Several projects focused on diet and exercise.

Dr. Klasko was impressed by all the SELECT students and their drive to better understand patient-centered care during their summer projects.

 “You all are going to be the biggest ambassadors of the SELECT program,” he told the group.

 Chevinksy and her classmates all agreed that they wished they could have worked longer on the projects. But the lessons they learned are embedded in their foundation to be better physicians.

 “It’s about having the patients leave with the feeling they’ve been listened to, and that they’ve been cared for,” Chevinksy said of her project. “It’s hard for me to separate now values-based practice from how I will be practicing later as a physician. I hope to use these values and think about patient care in this setting.”

– Story by Adrianna Paidas and photos by Eric Younghans/USF Health Communications