New Medical Education Pathway Builds Mentoring Skills

Headshots by: Keith Weller

Published in Aequanimitas - Aequanimitas Fall 2019

When Sanjay Desai (Osler, 2003) was an assistant chief of service at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, he realized he had a passion for medical education. “But I didn’t have the skills to build an academic career,” he recalls. “I had to learn them myself.”

A decade later, the director of the Osler Medical Residency Program and the Department of Medicine’s vice chair for education has found a way to nurture trainees’ interest in teaching the next generation of doctors: a new medical education pathway. “The goal is to identify potential mentors and develop skills early in their career,” says Desai, a national leader in medical education and specialist in pulmonary and critical care.

The Pathways Program, which debuted in 2015, provides formal opportunities to explore specialized programs using curricula with coursework, hands-on experience and individualized mentorship. Other pathways available to residents include physician-scientist, global health and patient safety. All four programs begin during the second year of the internal medicine residency.

What sets the medical education pathway apart is that it’s the first of these pathways to become available to residents who matched in the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center internal medicine residency program. “Including these trainees,” says Desai, “means we’re leveraging the experts and resources across our campuses and doubling the potential pool of future leaders in graduate medical education.” 

By the end of the medical education pathway, residents will have a portfolio showing proficiency in teaching curriculum development, medical education and research. 

“Becoming a medical educator requires learning how to develop scholarship including curriculum design, skills assessment, survey creation,” says Desai, “as well as teaching using newer modalities, such as social media.” 

In other words, the pathway will teach residents how to advance medical education and teach effectively. That could involve creating modules that practice how to identify a rare condition, for example, or how to share difficult news with a patient.

Co-directing the new pathway are Natasha Chida and Paul O’Rourke. Both physicians say they’re eager to contribute their experience and insights to inspire others to advance medical education. 

“We’re excited to have a lasting impact,” says Chida, who completed her internal medicine residency and chief residency at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, followed by an infectious disease fellowship at Johns Hopkins. “No matter what future path residents choose, they have the chance to become part of a community of educators who help others build training skills.” 

As a fellow, Chida focused on building her medical education skills, including curriculum development, educational scholarship and teaching skills. She worked closely with her mentor, Michael Melia, to examine internal medicine residents’ understanding of tuberculosis diagnostics and to create an objective assessment framework to evaluate residents’ competency in core subspecialty topics. 

Now, Chida is an associate director of the Infectious Disease Fellowship Program, working alongside Melia, who directs the program. She and Melia have launched a comprehensive longitudinal curriculum for the ID fellowship, which has been well received by trainees and faculty alike. The curriculum also reviews professional development topics that are important for early career planning. 

O’Rourke will lead the pathway on the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus. As a resident in internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, O’Rourke was part of the initial Medical Education Pathway at Penn and helped to design a “Midnight Curriculum” for residents who were working nights. It featured short teaching scripts on over 25 core internal medicine clinical topics. “The idea,” he explains, “was that a senior resident could deliver a 30-minute lesson at midnight to interns in the hospital.” It has since been incorporated into Penn’s residency program.

O’Rourke went on to complete a general internal medicine (GIM) medical education fellowship at Johns Hopkins. A leader in the specialty nationally and at Johns Hopkins, O’Rourke launched “GIMboree” — a monthly primary care community night for residents and faculty. The event hosts GIM and geriatrics educators and includes a journal club to discuss recent evidence relevant to outpatient medicine. GIMboree helps “foster a community in which residents feel supported in their outpatient interests,” says O’Rourke. Co-led by Osler resident Deborah Freeland, the program recently won a grant from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

 “We’re very fortunate to have an abundance of leaders and amazing people at Hopkins and on the Bayview campus to serve as role models,” O'Rourke adds. “This new pathway will provide an avenue for residents to become leaders in medical education.”

For his part, Desai says he feels buoyed as more residents receive formal training in the skills needed to build an academic career in education — an opportunity he lacked. “Luckily,” he says, “I learned from people I ran into along the way. I’m still learning.