August 9, 2002

Teaching excellence goal of new VUSM program

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Dr. Steven G. Gabbe

goal of new
VUSM program

Looking for a way to reward its best clinical investigators, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is kicking off a program designed to reward excellence in teaching.

Nominations are currently being sought for the Master Clinical Teacher Program at VUSM.

“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 introductory program will focus on those who teach medical students at the third- and fourth-year level. In the future, similar programs will be developed to support the school’s most outstanding basic science educators as well as faculty who contribute significantly to teaching house officers and clinical fellows.

Awards are for salary support of $50,000 per year for a maximum of three years. Four to six Master Clinical Teachers will be selected each year.

Gabbe said the program has been designed to allow the school’s best educators to spend more time with third- and fourth-year medical students. Two other medical schools– the University of California at San Francisco and Harvard–have similar programs. Gabbe said the programs have been developed to protect time for teaching, which too often takes a back seat to the faculty’s research and patient care demands.

“With all of the pressures on our faculty, time for teaching, which has traditionally been poorly rewarded, is even more threatened,” Gabbe said. “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, faculty are under pressure to see more patients. As a result, students are getting less direct one-on-one time with the faculty.”

But there are many exceptions at Vanderbilt, Gabbe said, faculty who, despite the pressures of research and patient care, remain exemplary teachers and consistently win teaching awards.

The program originated from discussions between Gabbe, Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs, and Dr. John Sergent, Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. Members of Dean’s Executive Council played a key role in designing the program.

Faculty will be nominated by their department chair. Some of the selection criteria include: 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 nomination must also include a clear statement from the chair as to how the award will allow the nominee to devote more time to teaching students. The nomination should also describe how the Master Clinical Teacher’s expertise would be used to improve the teaching skills of other faculty members. The Master Clinical Teacher could be partnered with a junior faculty member.

The selection of the Master Clinical Teachers will be made by members of the Dean’s Executive Council and two third-year students, two fourth-year students and two house officers who graduated from VUSM. The accomplishments of the Master Clinical Teachers will be reviewed annually and funding continued if performance is satisfactory. A Master Clinical Teacher may be re-nominated for the award at the end of the three-year period.

Gabbe has asked for nominations by Sept. 1. The selection process should be completed by Oct. 1.