Ross University Blog

Education Summit explores innovative ways to help medical students “think like doctors”

February 28, 2014

Physicians from hospitals throughout the U.S. that are clinical partners of Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) travelled to the Dominica campus recently for a meeting of the minds at an Education Summit with faculty members on the island. The Summit’s aim was to explore ways to increase clinical correlations within the basic science education. The journey of RUSM students begins in Dominica, where they study the basic sciences, and then continues at various locations in the U.S. where they do their core clinical rotations and electives. They may also choose to do international interdisciplinary electives in several countries around the globe. The Summit, on Feb. 21-22, was an innovative approach to a process of continuous improvement. The goal is to integrate clinical knowledge and experience into the basic science curriculum. A future conference will look at ways to integrate basic science teaching into the clinical years. 

Plenary speaker shares his institute’s experience

“I really believe in this,” said plenary session speaker Mark Nadeau, MD, residency program director in the department of family and community medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. His topic was, “Increasing Clinical Correlations in the Basic Science Curriculum: Lessons Learned.” His institute had been put on probation by the LCME for a lack of such correlation, but after developing a new structure and new curriculum, the probation has been lifted.

“Sometimes students know all the anatomy, but not the clinically significant anatomy,” explained Nadeau. “For example, they may know all the ligaments, but may not know which one you might injure when you twist an ankle. Now we do training in team-based learning and in small groups. The collaboration between the basic science faculty and the clinical faculty is ag success story.”

One of Dr. Nadeau’s residents, RUSM graduate Dr. Teny Phillip said, “It’s great that a first-year medical student is encouraged to start thinking like a clinician.”

Collaboration at the event

At the Education Summit basic science faculty hosted visiting clinical faculty and worked together in small groups on various topics. These sessions were followed by a debriefing for all of the event’s participants, with lively discussions ensuing. Leading a workshop on “Pain Management through Pharmacology” was the team of RUSM associate professor Vicki Coffin, PhD and Scott Ippolito, MD, FAAFP, chair of family medicine and clerkship director at South Nassau Hospital in N.Y. and RUSM’s associate dean for clinical sciences. “It’s also important to address pain management through non-pharmacological methods,” stated Dr. Ippolito. “We don’t want students to think that the only treatment is pharmacological.” Dr. Ippolito is also an RUSM alumnus (’86). “We cover a broad range of treatment,” noted Dr. Coffin.

RUSM professor Alan Bateson, PhD asked, “Where in our curriculum are the things you’re talking about; the clinical bit we can integrate with? How can we put our basic science material in a clinical context?” Dr. Bateson suggested that curriculum mapping is required.

Several Summit attendees were visiting Dominica for the first time, including Kelly Rich, MD, medical director of the Atlanta Medical Center Family Medicine Clinic, where she is the student coordinator. “I have a lot of respect for medical students who would leave the country to study. It takes drive.” Dr. Rich was glad to travel to the Summit because, she said, “I’m really excited about the fact that they want to get clinical and basic sciences faculty together to brainstorm. That is a really good thing. The result is that students would be better clinicians.” 

Call to action for medical school faculty

RUSM’s Senior Associate Dean for Education Alison Dobbie, MD, FACS, who organized the event, commented, “This is a living example of what happens when you put smart people in a room and let them get on with things.” Working with her on the event were RUSM’s James Grogan, PhD, assistant dean for curriculum and professor, department of biochemistry and genetics, and Stanley White, PhD, associate dean, Center for Teaching and Learning and professor of physiology, together with a team of faculty and staff members.

Senior Associate Dean, Dominica Campus, Wm Lynn Weaver, MD, said, “At RUSM we are here at the right time and place in history for taking the next step. This conference, this collaboration, is a set up for that.”
A six-point call-to-action was presented by Dean Joseph Flaherty, enumerating ways to achieve the goals discussed at the Summit. “I think it’s a great start. This is an ongoing process,” he said. “We have great momentum.”

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