WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – An evolving and expanding program of Core Teaching Faculty at Wake Forest University School of Medicine is bringing new innovations to a curriculum that was completely revamped in 1998.
The 37 Core Teaching Faculty members are scrutinizing each element of the curriculum with an eye toward making it more effective, developing better ways to evaluate students, enhancing the teaching skills of the faculty, and conducting educational research.
The Core Teaching Faculty program also aims at developing the next generation of teachers among the 900-member faculty, while other initiatives highlight leading-edge researchers or clinical excellence.
“As far as we are aware, there’s not another similar model at any academic medical center in the country,” said M. Ann Lambros, Ph.D., assistant dean for education.
“What we created was a way both to acknowledge that the contributions our faculty members make to teaching are important and valuable and also to grow the next generation of teaching professionals.”
William B. Applegate, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the School of Medicine, said, “The Core Teaching Faculty Initiative is one of the most important new projects that we have implemented at the medical school in recent years. This project is already substantially improving the quality of the education that our medical students receive."
Many of the people who were asked to join the Core Teaching Faculty had already been serving as course directors or doing extensive teaching for decades, Lambros said. But others are junior faculty. With the core faculty initiative, “we have a way to recruit those young faculty members who are actually attracted to teaching before their time is completely committed to their clinical practice or their research projects,” she said.
She said there is also a new financial commitment in support both of faculty who are teaching and the Core Teaching Faculty effort. The Core Teaching Faculty group has come up with such innovations as:
• A new database encompassing the three or four objectives of every lecture in every year of medical school, associated with the PowerPoint slides for those lectures. (All medical school lectures must be in PowerPoint with the slides stored on the file server.) That will help students in reviewing for their medical boards by providing a link to every mention of a Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) objective. These objectives typically are used to write the questions. The database is growing to encompass case studies and other non-lecture courses.
• Tutor guides for each of the teaching cases in the first year, so the faculty members who facilitate the small group problem-based learning sessions make sure each group is covering the same material.
• Pursuit of funding for education research, with two projects being funded and several more being resubmitted. The National Science Foundation awarded $200,000, and the N.C. Health and Wellness Fund paid for a three-year, $854,000 proposal.
The Core Teaching Faculty is working to ensure the integrity of the curriculum while reducing the faculty manpower requirements, she said.
Team-based learning began evolving four years ago because the school discovered that assigning two faculty mentors to each of 18 small groups meeting twice a week for two full years was too faculty intensive. Team-based learning now applies to the entire second year.
“The concept of small-group teaching, which is an excellent one, actually got overplayed,” Lambros said. The team-teaching concept will allow the small groups to continue while conserving the time demands on faculty.
There are no plans to change the basic problem-based system in the first year, in which students learn by encountering diagnostic problems, considering the alternative possibilities and coming to a conclusion. The student groups each divide up the work of searching the medical literature and the basic and clinical sciences underlying the problems.
The goal is to produce “graduates with enhanced critical thinking, problem solving, inquiry and self-assessment skills necessary for self-directed, lifelong learning,” Lambros said.
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Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine 30th in primary care, 41st in research and 14th in geriatrics training among the nation's medical schools. It ranks 32nd in research funding by the National Institutes of Health. Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best Doctors in America.