Welcome to the new academic year! It is an excellent time to set new intentions and goals for success, to build new habits, and to pursue new and better ways of fulfilling our department’s missions. What I continue to find amazing is that given the right conditions, good questions can foster whole new programs. With time and support, feedback, and the guidance of experience, answering that simple question produces a good idea, which can take root and bloom very quickly. One such transformative idea I believe we should talk about more than just once every year is what Dr. Manish Suneja and Jane Rowat built with the Objective Structured Clinical Evaluation (OSCE). At its core, the OSCE started with a good question: Wouldn’t it be great if we had a snapshot of our first-year interns’ skills before they started? We could know that an incoming class or a couple of individuals needed a little more coaching on, say, taking a history or that everyone already has a strong grasp on obtaining informed consent. How much time could be saved, how much more personalized could instruction get? Over the last seven years, our residency program has organized a small army of observers, simulated patients, and interns through a well-oiled battery of skills assessments. They have done this so well that now multiple departments within the college, and even the ACGME itself, agrees that this is something every program should do with their interns. And they rely on our guidance to implement it. It has been instructive and inspiring to watch every year, and I hope that this year’s participants have had a similar reaction.
A key group among the faculty observers watching the interns’ demonstrations are former and current Chief Residents. After 7 years of OSCEs, our newest Chiefs are the fourth class of Chiefs to have gone through the OSCEs themselves as interns, an important bit of continuity. It is always interesting to see what a Chief Resident will accomplish in their year and I am looking forward to getting to know this current class. Each week on Thursday morning Chair’s Rounds, I get the opportunity to watch their rapport with residents and medical students. I am always impressed by how easily they weave instruction into their questions and how easily they guide learners toward their own discoveries. I think our time together in the coming year will be productive and engaging. One of our former Chiefs, now Pulmonary faculty, Dr. Charles Rappaport, is now co-director of one of the college’s medical student learning communities, McCowen. (Some of you may recall that the concept and creation of the learning community was itself an innovation led by another member of our department, then-Associate Dean for Curriculum Dr. Peter Densen. It also should be noted that Dr. Densen gives a significant amount of credit for that work to Jane Rowat!) Dr. Rappaport is being joined in leading McCowen with our residency’s former Associate Program Director Dr. Katie Harris, who was a member of McCowen during her time here as a medical student. She tells me that she plans to follow the example set by Nephrology’s Dr. Becky Hegeman, who was her faculty director at the time. “I hope that I, too, can provide support and mentorship to students throughout all stages of their medical careers,” Dr. Harris said. “I hope I can also share my love of patient care with them—especially in the first year and a half of medical school where one can often feel very far away from patient care!” It is certain that some current member of McCowen will say the same thing about Dr. Harris and Dr. Rappaport’s mentorship very soon. Congratulations on this new role and thank you for your commitment to medical student education.
Our mentorship of the next generation does not stop at the medical student level. Some of our researchers have been hosting undergraduate students in their labs this summer. One can hope that more than a few sparks of interest and excitement have been encouraged or even lit for the first time as a result. Their work will culminate for some in presentations at the end of this month in the university-wide Summer Undergraduate Research Conference in the University of Iowa Memorial Union. It should be noted that many of the posters those students display will have been prepared, polished, and printed just down the hall from the Medical Alumni Auditorium by our own Design Center. Not only do they offer poster printing on foldable fabric at an affordable price, but Ann Armstrong and Teresa Ruggle provide expert advice on making those posters worthy of the University of Iowa brand. The two also offer design, layout, and illustration services to researchers or anyone with a design need. Their clients include members of our department—who really should take advantage of their talents if they have not yet—but other departments in the college and even the rest of the university. The best on campus is right here in our department! If you did not know before, now you do.