April 20, 2023

Conference brings together students from multiple schools to explore ways to help them flourish within the field of medicine

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine hosted more than 50 medical students from across 15 schools for the first Kern National Network for Flourishing in Medicine Student Conference.

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine recently hosted the the first Kern National Network for Flourishing in Medicine Student Conference for 50 medical students from 15 schools. In attendance from VUSM were: (back row, left to right) KNN treasurer Missy Kimlinger, Logan Locascio, Malini Anand and (front row, left to right) KNN president Victor Borza and vice president Nina Curkovic. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) hosted more than 50 medical students from across 15 schools for the first Kern National Network for Flourishing in Medicine (KNN) Student Conference, which served as an opportunity for learners to discuss their experiences in medical school, address challenges they encounter as future physicians, and create the necessary space to envision a brighter future for the field of medicine.

The KNN is a national movement focused on integrating caring, character, practical wisdom and flourishing within the profession of medicine. The KNN Student Conference included sessions organized by over 20 student leaders from KNN student chapters nationwide.

“The conference was an overwhelming success, thanks to the efforts of the student planning group and VUSM faculty members, Dr. Finck, Dr. Crook, and Dean Brady. We surveyed all the student attendees, and everyone thought it was a valuable experience they would attend again. Our group set the bar high for an inaugural student conference, and we’re excited to see what other schools do in the coming years,” said KNN president and VUSM student Victor Borza.

Student-led sessions demonstrated an understanding of the contributions learners can make and the importance of evaluating systems in place by forming strategic visions to enact change.

Using the KNN framework for flourishing, Kotter’s Change Model, and KNN Online Community, students talked through methods to implement future conversations on equity in medical institutions and ways to partner with existing like-minded organizations. Students also introduced pre-planning ideas for the 2024 KNN Student Conference, like integrating more faculty with students to learn and grow alongside each other in medical education.

“The partnership with the Kern National Network has further enhanced what our Vanderbilt 2.0 curriculum has aimed to do – prepare our next generation of physicians to be leaders in medicine,” said Luke Finck, EdD, MA, associate director, Office of Medical Student Research, and assistant professor, Medical Education and Administration. “To be these future leaders, they must have the opportunity to grow as individuals in a community where caring, character and practical wisdom lay a foundation for flourishing. The Kern National Network has allowed us to plant seeds of change that will spark the next phase of transformational change in medical education.”

The KNN has three major priorities:

  1. Transforming medical and health professions education using the concepts of character, caring and practical wisdom.
  2. Working with health care organizations to influence cultures and environments.
  3. Sharing knowledge and engaging partners toward broader policy and systems change.

The KNN works in partnership with medical schools and other health care stakeholders across the nation to transform health care’s educational and practice settings and create the conditions for flourishing within health care spaces. Members of the KNN student network are creatorspresentersinnovators and change agents, with opportunities to advise the KNN on future work, present at events, participate in faculty-led workgroups, lead initiatives and much more.

Along with student-focused events, students can also participate in the KNN’s new online community. The virtual community of practice was created as a space to learn, connect, catalyze and reconnect with joy and beauty in medicine, while putting concepts of caring, character and practical wisdom into action to advance flourishing. The online community features a student group where learners can convene and participate in discussions involving medical students and their professional identity formation. VUSM students interested in joining KNN can reach out to Borza at victor.a.borza@vanderbilt.edu.

As part of the second phase of the KNN funding, students and student-faculty partners are encouraged to apply for a KNN microgrant which can help jump-start new projects or initiatives that align with the organization’s mission, Finck said. Each microgrant provides support for up to $2,000 for the next academic year. Students interested in applying for microgrants may contact Emily Blake (Emily.blake@vanderbilt.edu).

With Finck’s guidance and a grant, third-year medical students Brian Hou and Daniel Ragheb started a new program, HEART (Hybrid Education in AED and Resuscitation Training). The aim of HEART is to spread the training of lifesaving CPR and create a stronger connection between VUSM and Metro Nashville Public Schools.

“The first desire came largely from my own experience of sudden cardiac arrest (VUMC article linked here), after which many of us students hoped to spread the skills that were used to save my life across Nashville,” Ragheb said. “The goal of the program is to send medical students as volunteers to local high schools in order to teach them CPR and AED skills, create connections with them in the hopes of becoming long-term resources for those interested in health careers, and expose young minds to medicine. Our goal is to visit high schools periodically, at least once a month, in order to create this longitudinal relationship.”

Thus far, the students have visited two high schools and taught almost 250 students. For more information on HEART, please contact Daniel.k.ragheb@vanderbilt.edu.

In 2017 VUSM was chosen to be a part of what was originally known as the Kern National Network for Caring and Character in Medicine, a major component of the newly formed Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education (Kern Institute), a national initiative to transform medical education across the continuum from pre-medical school to physician practice.