May 6, 2005

Faculty Meeting details education challenges

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Steven Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine, makes a point during Tuesday’s Spring Faculty Meeting.
photo by Dana Johnson

Faculty Meeting details education challenges

During the annual Spring Faculty Meeting Tuesday, Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine, outlined how the school is working to address the challenges facing medical education, while continuing to strive to meet the school's mission.

“These are clearly turbulent times in medical education,” Gabbe said, noting that the Institute of Medicine and Association of American Medical Colleges have made it clear that the education system must change to improve the quality of health care.

“I think President Jordan Cohen summarized the issues very well at the 2003 AAMC meeting,” Gabbe said. “In the old paradigm of health care, we treated individuals, but today we're asked to treat the community. We focused on the cure, rather than preserving health and preventing illness. We provided episodic care, while the emphasis today is on the continuity of care. The physician was the lone provider, now we're working in teams. We had a paternalistic approach to care, and now we're partnering with patients. The care was provider-centered, but now it's more patient and family-centered. What we did was anecdotal — this is what worked with my last patient — and now it's evidence-based.”

Gabbe said these changes in health care mean changes in medical education — creating a teaching environment in which students are active and not spoon-fed, where they are driven by their curiosity and develop documented competencies, not merely the ability to regurgitate facts. Courses need to be less departmental and more interdisciplinary, and students should develop comprehensive skills beyond a physical exam.

“What we taught was really based on the curriculum, but now it's based on specialized learning objectives and we tell the students what skills we want them to master,” he said.

Gabbe outlined how the school is changing it's curriculum to meet the evolving needs, and how specific tools and programs, such as KnowledgeMap, standardized patient information and student learning portfolios, will help students develop comprehensive skills.

“Our mission, to have the best students, educated by the best faculty, in the best environment, to become the best physicians and scientists, starts with attracting the very best students,” Gabbe said.

The school has revised the admissions process and upgraded and updated the school's Web site to this end.

Unique, self-directed study opportunities are also a key attraction for students, Gabbe said, noting the Emphasis program, which pairs first-year students with mentors in their area of interest and involves a research project that spans the course of two years.

“We also must recruit, develop and retain the best faculty,” Gabbe said. Programs such as the Academic Leadership Program, the Junior Faculty Leadership Program and the Master Clinical Teacher programs, are examples of how the school is working to provide faculty with the tools they need to foster their careers.

“We also need to provide the best environment,” Gabbe said. “We believe that diversity is a key element.” The elevate program, the creation of interdisciplinary centers and new programs in research training are ways the school is trying to better the environment.

Gabbe also noted the construction of MRB IV and a TVC addition for dry lab research as examples.

“I've been here now at Vanderbilt just over four years as your dean, and it truly has been a privilege to be a part of this faculty and participate in the exciting programs in researc, teaching and patient care that you are all a part of,” Gabbe said.