July 22, 2005

New office bolsters education efforts

Featured Image

John Shatzer Jr. has been named to help lead VUSM’s efforts to provide new tools and strategies to enhance medical education.
photo by Anne Rayner

New office bolsters education efforts

John H. Shatzer Jr., Ph.D., has joined the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine as director of the Office of Medical Education. In this new role he will report to Bonnie Miller, M.D., associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, and will help lead the school's efforts to improve medical education by providing new tools and strategies to enhance education, define and measure outcomes and meet the demands of educational accrediting bodies.

“The mission of the office is to support the faculty in their educational efforts,” Shatzer said. “One of the most critical aspects of medical education today is determining suitable outcome measures to say that we've done a good job and that our curriculum is working.”

Shatzer said another big charge is to create a learning center, which will be housed in the MRB IV addition above Langford Auditorium. Shatzer will be responsible mainly for the human simulations, or the use of standardized patients for teaching and assessment.

“A standardized patient is an individual who is trained to portray a patient, and takes on a patient's persona, both their history — medical, social and family — and on occasion, simulate physical findings,” he said. “To call them actors is too theatrical; it's very serious business, and students must suspend disbelief in order for the exercise to be effective.”

Standardized patients have become particularly important, not only because of their use as an effective teaching mechanism, but also because they are now a part of a clinical examination used to license all U.S. medical students.

The learning center will also include technical simulators, such as human mannequin simulators, partial task trainers and virtual reality tools. Matt Weinger, M.D., professor of Anesthesiology, will work with Shatzer, focusing on the technical training components of the center.

“While simulators and standardized patients play a somewhat adjunct role currently in medical education, I think they will play an increasingly necessary role in the future,” Shatzer said. “The ultimate goal, of course, is to help students work well with real patients. Using simulators helps make the patient experience more efficient and effective.”

Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Shatzer was the director of Medical Education Services and the Clinical Education Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. There he established a standardized patient program, as well as led teaching and assessment programs and assisted in curricular revision.

“I hope to use that knowledge and experience to create successful programs here at Vanderbilt,” Shatzer said.

“This is a pivotal and exciting moment in our educational programs for our students, our residents, fellows and faculty, as we prepare to launch our new curriculum and plan for our new learning center,” said Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. “We could have no one better than John Shatzer to serve as the director of the Office of Medical Education and support these and many other activities. John brings to us years of experience at Johns Hopkins and a national reputation of excellence in medical education.”

Shatzer received his bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Evansville in 1967 and his Master of Science in Education Psychology from Indiana University in 1969. He spent the first six years of his career teaching elementary students in Guam. Then, he switched gears and began his career in medical education, accepting a position as a faculty researcher and instructional development specialist of Curriculum Affairs and Educational Resources at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

In 1977, Shatzer joined the College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, serving as a staff assistant-coordinator of testing for the Office of Curriculum and Evaluation. While serving as an adjunct instructor of Medical Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he also returned to the classroom and earned his Ph.D. in Education Psychology from the university. Shatzer then took the position of Coordinator of Instructional Development at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, which he held until 1991, when he joined Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.