Medical students get new teaching track

BY SAM LANE | DECEMBER 10, 2009 7:30 AM

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UI medical students hoping to pursue a career in education now have a proper training ground.

The UI Carver College of Medicine inaugurated the Teaching Distinction Track on Dec. 4, which aims to prepare its students to be effective educators, according to the college’s website.

The teaching track joins two others already implemented, which focus on research and service.
“The main reason for the distinctions are to allow students to focus on a particular area of interest,” said Kristi Ferguson, the director of the Office of Consultation and Research in Medical Education.

“There have always been options for students to specialize, but these allow for extra training and credit in a particular area of special interest.”

A primary reason for creating the new track was the popular monthlong Teaching Elective course.

Officials approved the Teaching Distinction Track in April, and they are now in the process of enrolling students.

“People are pretty excited,” Ferguson said. “One of the things we’ve found is that interviewers at residencies find [the distinctions] very attractive. It’s a big plus for them.”

As a part of the new track, students who enroll must develop a learning contract with a mentor in their specified area of study. This contract is then submitted for review by the Teaching Distinction Track Steering Committee, Ferguson said.

“We want to be more thoughtful and intentional in designing something effective for them,” said Christine Cork, the codirector of the new track and the director of the Medical Student Counseling Center. “Part of being a physician is being an educator for the community.”

Following approval of their applications, students must complete 60 hours of relevant teaching experience in areas ranging from tutoring to writing exam questions. Students must also be involved in some type of medical-education committee. After completing these requirements, students participate in an evaluation process that includes a portfolio representative of their education.

Around 20 students attended last week’s introductory meeting, and several more have expressed interest, Cork said.

The UI has been one of the pioneers in distinction tracks, and officials said they feel the programs allow for a high level of course rigor.

“The students are all very well aware of distinction tracks,” said Christopher Cooper, the associate dean for student affairs and curriculum in the Carver College of Medicine. “It does take extra work. I think it provides a structure to explore further and get experience in a certain area.”

Cooper said the distinction is noted in the Medical Student Performance Evaluation, something he said is another “practical aspect.”

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has tracks similar to the UI’s. The institution has two distinctions, one in research and one in medical education.

“They came about in hopes that students who graduate will be better physicians for the residency of their choice,” said David Henzi, the director of the Office of Academic Enhancement at the school.

Beside the extra time professors provide, the new track comes at no cost to the students or the college.

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