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Interdisciplinary Program Develops Leaders in Medical Education

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Interdisciplinary Program Develops Leaders in Medical Education

Interdisciplinary Program Develops Leaders in Medical Education
Christina DuVernay

Date: 10/26/2017

Rachel Salas, then in her second year on the faculty of the Department of Neurology, was quick to embrace the opportunity to teach the neurology clerkship when it was offered to her. But even though it had not been that long since she’d been in medical school herself, she soon realized that the generation of students she was teaching was different in subtle ways from her medical school peers, and she needed to determine the best ways to reach them.

“They are looking for meaning, and the days are over when learners just take it on face value that something is important; they want to know why they need to know something,” she says. “What’s more, I recognized that as much as I loved learning, I really didn’t have any idea about what makes teaching effective.”

Then she met Toni Ungaretti. She had invited Ungaretti, an assistant dean in the school of education, to come talk about educational scholarship to her students. In the course of their conversation, Ungaretti mentioned the Master’s of Education in the Health Professions (MEHP) program that she helped launch and now directs.

The schools of education, nursing, medicine, public health, and business came together five years ago to create MEHP. Accepting about 30 students per year, the part-time program is now entirely online, such that about 80 percent of students are not local, and many are international, says Ungaretti. Students who take two courses per term typically finish in two years; those who take one course at a time finish in four. Though most of these students complete the 33 credits required for the master’s degree, some leave with a certificate after obtaining 18 credits.

Salas, now an associate professor in the department, was hooked. “I knew it was exactly what I needed.”

Most courses are taught by an interprofessional team, the value of which Salas is quick to point out: “That’s the reality of patient care today: it’s not just about the doctors.”

The 18-credit core consists of evidence-based teaching, curriculum development, learning theory and adult development. After completing this core, students can choose one of two tracks: educational leadership or educational research.

“Our faculty come from five schools at Johns Hopkins, plus we have faculty from the pharmacy program at the Notre Dame University of Maryland,” says Ungaretti. “We offer our students a diversity of expertise; plus, they benefit from the interprofessional collaboration between their instructors.”

Salas, who specializes in sleep disorders, says her time pursuing the master’s degree has helped her become a more effective instructor and mentor to her students. The PreDoc Program she co-developed for premed students has become so popular that it receives two or three times as many applications as there are spaces. It’s crafted to appeal to the students, from its Project Runway!–inspired application project to its focus on team-based, experiential learning.