October 18, 2002

Master Clinical Teachers named

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Master Clinical Teachers named

As a way of rewarding excellence in teaching, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has named seven faculty members to its first group of Master Clinical Teachers.

Named to the group are: Drs. G. Waldon Garriss III, assistant professor of Medicine and Pediatrics; Joseph Gigante, assistant professor of Pediatrics; R. Michael Rodriguez, associate professor of Medicine; Corey M. Slovis, professor and Chair of Emergency Medicine; Anderson Spickard III, assistant professor of Medicine; John L. Tarpley, professor of Surgery; and John A. Zic, assistant professor of Medicine.

The program is designed to enhance medical education for the school’s third- and fourth-year students, to protect time for teaching, which too often takes a back seat to the faculty’s research and patient care demands, and to improve the teaching skills of VUSM faculty members, said Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, dean of VUSM.

Two other medical schools — the University of California at San Francisco and Harvard — have similar programs.

“One of the key elements of our Academic Strategic Plan is the development and implementation of a program to reward excellence in teaching,” said Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, dean of VUSM. “The Master Clinical Teacher Program has been designed to promote the advancement of medical education by funding the teaching and related scholarly activities of our school’s best clinician educators.”

The selection of the Master Clinical Teachers was made by members of the Dean’s Executive Council, two third-year students, two fourth-year students and two house officers who graduated from VUSM.

Slovis said he views teaching as a privilege.

“To be recognized as a master teacher means a lot to me. In addition to devoting more time to teaching one on one, I’m hoping to use this new appointment to force me to do something I should have done 20 years ago, to formally learn how to teach better. I’d like to take this opportunity to learn the science of teaching, to become a teacher of teachers.”

Gabbe said with pressures on the faculty, time for teaching, which has traditionally been poorly rewarded, is even more threatened.

“While faculty are expected to teach, in my experience, promotion and tenure committees don’t put as much value on teaching accomplishments as they do research. At the same time, members of the faculty are under pressure to see more patients. As a result, students are getting less direct one-on-one time with the faculty.”

Tarpley said that both “teacher” and “doctor” derive from the Latin word “docere” meaning “to teach.”

“I think it is laudatory that Vanderbilt acknowledges the importance of clinical medical teaching just as our school promotes research and clinical care. I consider myself a teacher and am most honored to be numbered with such a great group of Vanderbilt colleagues in this first set of clinical teachers.”

Garriss said Gabbe called to tell him of his selection on his 43rd birthday. “It was a fantastic birthday surprise,” he said.

“One of my favorite quotes from Sir William Osler has to do with medical education,” Garriss said. “Osler said, ‘The successful teacher is no longer on a height, pumping knowledge at high pressure into passive receptacles…(but rather) a senior medical student anxious to help juniors.’ That’s the way I approach my interactions with students. I love the fact that medicine stretches me to learn more every day. As long as I can remember, I’ve loved teaching. It is one of those things that keeps me enthusiastic and happy. What a great honor it is to have been chosen to develop more opportunities to interact with the Vanderbilt medical students, something that I profoundly enjoy.”

Garriss said one thing he hopes to accomplish in the program is the development of a procedure clinic for medical students, a structured curriculum to address commonly performed procedures that are done by an internist or a pediatrician in the clinic or hospital setting.

Rodriguez said he is “honored” to have been selected.

“I feel very fortunate to have many people who’ve supported my efforts. One of my goals is to develop programs to improve clinical teaching by house staff and faculty to students.”

Spickard said he believes Vanderbilt has a long tradition of using exceptional teachers to teach medical students.

“To be counted as one of these teachers, for me, is sacred ground. The learners energize the school. Their insights, excellence and curiosity make it a privilege to help them along their way. I am deeply honored.”

Spickard said he plans to use the opportunity to serve more often as an attending on the wards and to implement a new two-week outpatient rotation for students in the third-year Core Medicine Clerkship. He also plans to identify and help train 40 to 50 new faculty members who will agree to have students join them in clinic.

Zic also has specific plans in mind, to work with small groups of third-year students in order to reinforce the fundamentals of the cutaneous exam and the vocabulary of dermatology.

“It is an incredible honor to be part of the first group of Master Clinical Teachers,” Zic said. “This program will allow me to spend more time teaching which is a critical mission of the Medical Center along with patient care and biomedical research. I admire the teaching skills of everyone in this first group and hope to learn from them as we begin to interact with each other.”

Awards are for salary support of $50,000 per year for three years.

“The award acknowledges the importance of training our medical students of today to be the future clinicians and leaders of tomorrow,” Gigante said.

“The award will allow me to spend more one-on-one time with medical students, enabling me to directly observe and assess their clinical skills,” he said, adding that he would like to develop a clinical skills teaching model that could be used in busy clinical settings. He is also interested in developing a procedural skills lab, which would allow for the observation and documentation of clinical procedures performed by students. He is also interested in obtaining a master’s degree in education.

Members of the faculty were nominated by their department chairs. Selection criteria included: receiving one or more teaching awards within the department, the School of Medicine and/or national or regional organizations; participating in significant amounts of effective training in the inpatient or outpatient setting; serving as a mentor or advisor for at least one student each year; serving on departmental or School of Medicine education committees; receiving consistently high teaching evaluations from students during their third- and fourth-year clerkships; receiving consistently high evaluations from the departmental chair or peer review for the delivery of the third- and fourth-year curriculum.

The accomplishments of the Master Clinical Teachers will be reviewed annually and funding continued if their performance is satisfactory. A Master Clinical Teacher may be re-nominated for the award at the end of the three-year period.

Future plans call for developing programs to support the school’s most outstanding basic science educators as well as faculty who contribute significantly to teaching house officers and clinical fellows.