Postfellowship Pathways

The road less traveled in gastroenterology and hepatology: Becoming a medical educator


 

What advice would you offer a junior faculty member interested in a career in medical education within gastroenterology and hepatology?

1. Just before I completed fellowship, I asked Holly Humphrey, MD, the former dean of the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, this same question. Her answer was simple and is worth sharing: “In the beginning, just focus on becoming the best clinician possible. The rest will fall into place with time.” So, I did exactly this. I continually tried to push the limits of my knowledge, always questioning standard clinical practices to understand the evidence behind (or not behind) them. This knowledge then naturally became the content of my teaching for trainees in the clinical environment so that eventually patient care and teaching were seamlessly integrated into the same day-to-day workflow. The more I taught trainees, the more my commitment to education was recognized by my institution.

2. Meet with leadership of your medical school, internal medicine residency program, and gastroenterology and hepatology fellowships early in the course of your career to assert your desire to contribute to their respective educational missions.

3. Create a teaching philosophy that clearly communicates “your fundamental beliefs about teaching and learning, why you hold those values and beliefs, and how you translate these claims into practice.”1 This document will act as a guiding force in your career by highlighting the themes and principles that you have already incorporated and will continue to incorporate into your teaching practices and educational activities. For example, it can provide clarity when you are in doubt of how to address a difficult learning environment or whether to accept a certain position.

4. Because of No. 1 and No. 2, you will start to be offered opportunities to formally become involved in curricula within undergraduate (UME) and graduate medical education (GME). It will likely begin with requests to lecture or precept small group sessions. Use these smaller opportunities not only to refine your teaching skills but to explore whether your career aspirations better align with UME or GME. With hard work and perseverance, the opportunities can progress to invitations to become a course director, join a curriculum committee, or become an associate program director for a residency or fellowship program (which at this point is why you want to know if you prefer working in UME, GME, or both).

5. Seek feedback often from your learners. It is the only way you will continue to improve your teaching skills and the learning environment you create. Furthermore, formal evaluations can be used in the promotion process.

6. Collaborate with and seek mentorship from fellow medical educators both at your own institution and at others. As previously mentioned, these relationships do not need to be (and are often not) with other gastroenterologists or hepatologists.

7. Seek out national opportunities related to medical education. Most of the gastroenterology and hepatology societies have one or more committees focused on medical training. The AGA Academy of Educators is a fantastic community of education-focused individuals within our specialty that provides opportunities for networking, funding, and career development. Furthermore, other general societies (for example, the Association of American Medical Colleges, American College of Physicians) may be interested in including subspecialty members in their educational committees and activities.

Dr. Mikolajczyk is an assistant professor of medicine and an associate program director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program at the University of Illinois Chicago. He is the lead faculty adviser for the Liver Fellow Network. He has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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