USF Health MCOM welcomes Deborah DeWaay as associate dean for medical education

Deborah DeWaay, MD, FACP, has been named associate dean of Undergraduate Medical Education in the Office of Educational Affairs of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM).

When she begins in late March, Dr. DeWaay will oversee all components for educating MCOM medical students.  Undergraduate medical education is the overall learning experience students have while in medical school that includes the curriculum, clinical rotations, simulation exercises, and peer projects which add to the complete knowledge and skill set students will have at graduation as they transition to be physicians in training during residency.

Dr. Deborah DeWaay. Photo by Tim Roylance.

Dr. Deborah DeWaay. Photo by Tim Roylance.

“Dr. DeWaay brings to USF Health a broad experience for developing medical curricula and her own passion for teaching will greatly impact our students,” Dr. Bognar said. “Her sense for implementing key components that better meet national trends and standards will help us strengthen our program tremendously.”

Prior to joining USF Health, Dr. DeWaay was associate professor of internal medicine, associate vice-chair for Medical Education, and director of the Internal Medicine Clerkship at the Medical University of South Carolina. She earned her medical degree with a distinction in research from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and has won numerous awards for teaching and humanism in medicine.  She is a general internist who practices as a hospitalist.

The Morsani College of Medicine is doing a fantastic job teaching future doctors, Dr. DeWaay said. In her new role, she will help guide the evolution of the medical school curriculum to prepare USF medical students for the ever-changing and rapidly evolving health care system.

“Ideally the educational system focuses on creating physicians who meet the health care system’s needs, and the health care system provides educational opportunities that promote the creation of the physicians it will need,” she said.

Central to the concept, she said, is competency.

“One of my visions is to better incorporate the AAMC’s Entrustable Professional Activities into the curriculum,” she said. “These EPAs are the 13 key skills that, upon graduation, every medical student should be able to demonstrate proficiently before starting residency. Many, if not all, of these 13 activities are likely in the MCOM curriculum already. The next step will be to make student assessment of these competencies even more explicit and to create a system that allows students and educators to glean organized data that will promote continuous improvement of the students and the curriculum.”

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In addition to being able to track competencies, Dr. DeWaay would like to build a system that will let students progress based on those competencies, in order to give added motivation beyond just meeting the competency.

“We have all of these talented students who are anxiously eager to become physicians,” she said. “I want to see our students have their talents cultivated even further prior to residency, so that when they begin their internship the learning curve is alleviated a bit.”

For example, she said, with regard to managing a stroke, if a student has demonstrated competency through simulation exercises, when they rotate with the stroke team, the attendings and residents on that team will know by that student’s presence in that select position that he or she has been trained and proven their ability. Thus, the student can have more responsibility on that team and have an improved experience.

“By increasing the opportunities students have to earn responsibility, we will build their confidence and increase their motivation to push beyond their own perceived limitations” she said.  “In addition, the health system would then provide increased opportunities for students to practice their skill. The result is learners who exceed expectations that allow medical schools to supply even more superior physicians into the health system in order to ultimately provide improved care to our community.”

Another key approach, she said, will be to build stronger clinical decision makers, which means students will have a better, more complete knowledge of the human body. Translated, that means continuing USF’s integration of the basic science and clinical science concepts across all four years. Dr. DeWaay offered this example.

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“In heart failure, for example,” she said, “we administer furosemide, but why? We know all the parameters around dosages, but what else? What is furosemide actually doing? How is our patient’s body actually responding to it? Having a greater foundation in basic science concepts while students are actually in the clinical setting, referencing them directly back to the patient in front of them, will help them be better doctors. It’s called mechanistic thinking, and incorporating it across all four years of medical school will create better clinical decision makers.”

In offering these ideas for what educational approaches make good doctors, Dr. DeWaay is quick to say that it’s a team of educators that helps build the framework.

“It’s important that there’s a unified vision for our goals and that all ideas are considered because there are always different ways to get to our destination,” she said. “The best innovations and solutions to a problem rarely come from one person.  Ideally, the culture cultivates an environment where individuals have novel ideas and the group takes the idea and makes it personalized and successful to the organization at large.”

Once settled in at MCOM, don’t be surprised to see Dr. DeWaay attending classes and clinical rotations as she gains a better sense of what USF medical students and educators are already experiencing. In addition, she will likely keep teaching.

“I can’t imagine not teaching or seeing patients,” Dr. DeWaay said. “Patients, students and residents constantly remind me why I became an academic physician and the great responsibility I have to serve both groups with enthusiasm and excellence.”

Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications.