Dr. Quinn: Emotional intelligence linked to success in medical field

Joann Farrell Quinn, PhD.

Imagine you’re the manager of an equity-trading desk and you see two employees constantly in conflict and arguing with each other. You don’t understand why and don’t see an end in sight.  What do you do?

Seeing scenarios like this play out when she was an equity trader prompted Joann Farrell Quinn, PhD, to earn her doctorate degree in organizational Behavior from Case Western University to help answer the question “What makes people tick?”

Dr. Quinn is the competency assessment director for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Scholarly Excellence, Leadership Experiences, Collaborative Training (SELECT) program. She and the SELECT team administer the Emotional Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) to SELECT students several times throughout medical school using a model that focuses on self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.  The ESCI uses those four focus areas to help students understand how to use their own emotional and social competency to communicate more effectively, a must for aspiring doctors.

“Emotional intelligence has always been important, but lately it’s been more of a topic of discussion given how [health care] organizations are set up to be more interprofessional with people moving between teams constantly,” Dr. Quinn said.

Emotional intelligence is simply about understanding what’s happening and finding ways to mitigate the effects of certain emotions, she said.  This is one of the first steps to preventing burnout in medical school and in the profession of medicine.

“Medical school is a big lifestyle change.  Students come into a new setting and must develop new processes for how they retain lecture content and study. If we can give them the tools ahead of time to recognize the signs that things are starting to slip, it’s like training your brain what to do before it happens,” she said.  “We can combat burnout by being self-aware. The more aware our medical students are, the better doctors they are likely to become.”

Dr. Quinn is a sub-award principal investigator for an $880,000 grant recently awarded to Rochester Institute of Technology professor Casey Miller from the National Science Foundation INCLUDES program, a national program that seeks to boost efforts to create a more diverse workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The parent award is an $8 million award, which is one of the NSF’s 10 Big Ideas for 2018.  Dr. Quinn is developing an assessment to gauge applicants’ behaviors related to emotional and social characteristics of successful PhD researchers, such as self-awareness, adaptability and grit.

“The short-term goal is to come up with a valid, reliable instrument that programs can use as part of their application process to assist in deciding which applicants they are going to accept into their PhD programs. Long term, I’d like to expand that into all professional degree programs,” she said.

With additional grant funding, she hopes to be able to focus her research to other professional degrees career paths including medical degrees, and Juris Doctorates, in addition to all PhD programs.

Photo by Fredrick J. Coleman, USF Health Communications and Marketing