August 1, 2013

VUSM’s new curriculum gains technological support

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has created a new office to manage the technical support necessary to make the dramatic shift in educational techniques under Curriculum 2.0.

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has created a new office to manage the technical support necessary to make the dramatic shift in educational techniques under Curriculum 2.0.

The Office of Educational Informatics and Technology (IT) will be directed by Anderson Spickard III, M.D., M.S., associate professor of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics.

Anderson Spickard III, M.D., M.S.

The office will design and run informatics programs to deliver instruction, interact with learners and track student performance. It will also provide similar support for graduate medical education and continuing education for Vanderbilt physicians.

Spickard, who has been named assistant dean for Educational Informatics and Technology, was involved in the early design of programs to automatically track medical student progress. One, called Vanderbilt Core Clinical Curriculum (VC3), uses informatics technology to automatically document each student’s exposure to 25 carefully selected core medical problems. Spickard said the success of VC3, since its launch in 2009, has helped achieve the dream of Curriculum 2.0.

“We kept up with the pace of ideas as the curriculum developed. The systems support the notion that students can progress through medical school in more individualized pathways,” Spickard said.

The complexity of assessing a student’s individual strengths and weaknesses in different settings requires an equally complex system for computerized assessment and tracking.

This year, as Curriculum 2.0 reaches full implementation, VUSM is launching an open source software tool developed at Vanderbilt called VSTAR.

Data will be available, in real time, to help trained mentors and advisers work with students to review their own performance data, find gaps and strengths in learning and allow them to strategize a path to improvement.

“If we have easily derived data points that are fair, contextualized to the setting, we start to see the nuances of the areas in which a student excels and the areas in which the student needs assistance. It makes for economical use of a student’s time and focus, so they can complete required competencies sooner.

“Then, because we track emerging talents and discern one’s developing thoughts about his or her career, it makes sense that we can steer one toward specific immersion components of training in the latter years of medical school,” Spickard said.

Bonnie Miller, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and senior associate dean for Health Sciences Education, said the creation of this new office is exciting for the school and will lead to enhancements for the Medical Center.

“As we increasingly use education informatics and technology to enhance teaching and assessment across the continuum of medical education, Anderson will assure that our efforts are coordinated and that multiple users benefit from everything we learn and develop.

“While our capabilities have always been strong, Anderson’s leadership will allow us to jump to the next level,” Miller said.

For third- and fourth-year medical students, some of the older informatics tools, like KnowledgeMap and Portfolio, will remain the same this year.

Eventually, they too will be brought under Curriculum 2.0 and will become part of VSTAR.
Spickard said he will continue his clinical practice in addition to leading the new office, but he has handed off his longtime role as director of the Third-Year Medicine Clerkship to Ed Vasilevskis, M.D., MPH.