Members and Fellows welcomed to MMS Academy of Clinical Teachers

The Melbourne Medical School recently celebrated its eight new Members and twelve new Fellows admitted to the  Academy of Clinical Teachers in 2015.

Launched in 2013, the academy was established to promote excellence in clinical teaching and professional engagement with the University’s health sector colleagues, and to recognise the vital role that clinical teachers play in the education of medical students.

“Our clinical teachers are the backbone of our curriculum in the MD program, but they are unsung heroes, and the purpose of the Academy is to acknowledge their extraordinary efforts in transforming the learning of our students,” said Head of the Melbourne Medical School Professor Geoff McColl.

“We’re conscious that clinicians are extremely busy people who have to fit their teaching duties in amongst the pressing needs of patient care, and also often research programs. It’s humbling to welcome into the Academy these doctors who manage to bring such enthusiasm and passion to the teaching role," said Professor Steve Trumble, Head of the Department of Medical Education.

The 2015 recipients are -

Membership Awards
Assoc Professor Doug Crompton
Dr Barbara Hayes
Dr Elizabeth McCarthy
Dr Veena Roberts
Dr Rebecca Szabo
Dr Corrine Tey
Dr Kurt Wendelborn
Dr Elizabeth Williams

Fellowship Awards
Dr Sadanand Anavekar
Dr Sally Bell
Assoc Professor Russell Buchanan
Assoc Professor Hugo Gold
Professor Lindsay Grayson
Professor Michael Henderson
Assoc Professor Robyn Langham
Assoc Professor James Oliver
Professor Mike South
Dr Bernie Sweet
Dr Christine Tangas
Assoc Professor Wei Qi Fan

Each has been nominated by Directors of Medical Education, Department Heads or Subject Coordinators for having demonstrated a commitment to excellence in clinical teaching above and beyond expectations.

Two of this year’s recipients share a few of their thoughts on teaching clinical medicine - Dr Rebecca Szabo and Professor Lindsay Grayson who received a membership and fellowship award respectively.

DR REBECCA SZABO

Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Royal Women’s and Western Health Sunshine Hospitals, Senior Clinical Lecturer and Clinical Coordinator of the Women’s Health at Royal Women’s Hospital.

What motivates you as a clinical teacher?
My own clinical teachers in undergraduate and postgraduate education have inspired me to teach. They inspired me to learn, question and strive to become the best clinician I could be. They gave me a gift that I hope I share with my students, demonstrating the joy of teaching and passion for sharing knowledge and watching people learn, grow and understand things.

What do you think makes a good clinical teacher?
You need to be engaged, passionate, listen and understand, have an open mind, and care enough to try to make the subject relevant to students - it is about the students in front of you and how they learn. Being a good clinical teacher is about valuing teaching and investing in my own clinical and educational professional development. A lot of our teaching is on-the-go teaching, on a ward round, within the clinical setting, in the emergency department, in the operating theatre or the suite – you need to be able to teach to both the setting and the cohort to make all clinical interactions learning opportunities. The best clinical teachers are supportive and good listeners and take the time to truly learn where their students are up to and helping them get to where they are going.

What do you think is the difference between teaching and mentoring?
Teaching is traditionally about imparting knowledge whereas I see mentoring as helping someone to achieve their potential. As students become more confident and expert, you can step back as a teacher and move into mentor mode where you observe, and make sure you are approachable and available to them when they need to ask questions. Mentoring provides greater examples of professionalism and teamwork, and how to conduct your-self in the workplace with peers, other doctors, nursing staff, allied health staff and patients.

Doctors as healers and teachers
All doctors and people in medicine teach whether they realise it or not because they need to teach their patients. There was a recent post on Facebook that said, ‘Please don’t mistake your Google search for my medical degree.’ In the age of Dr Google, patients are better advocates for themselves but can harm themselves with false information. It is vital for us to provide the best education for our patients.

What is the E.X.C.I.T.E. program you are enrolled in?
Excellence in Clinical Teaching was designed to combine education with clinical teaching for any clinician who teaches within medicine, nursing or any of the allied health areas. I’m about to finish my first year and receive a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Teaching, and my intention is to do the full Masters.

I have been formally teaching for 16 years but nobody has ever taught me how to teach – it is something that I have learned through trial and reflection, largely modelled on my experience as a student and my own mentors and teachers.  E.X.C.I.T.E.  has given me a larger toolbox of skills that enable me to switch from one approach to another if I need to, and helped me to understand more about how I and others teach and learn.  It has inspired me to improve and innovate and not just do the same old thing - to push myself to become a better clinical teacher.

PROFESSOR LINDSAY GRAYSON

Professor of Infectious Disease and Director of Infectious Disease and Microbiology at Austin Health, Director of Hand Hygiene Australia, Senior Researcher in the Department of Medicine at Austin Health and Supervisor in the Scholarly Selective Program.

What is the importance of mentoring?
Mentoring is critical and may be even more important than the routine teaching because part of the process of becoming a doctor is not just absorbing information, it’s about how you interact with your colleagues and how you translate the information that you learn into practice so that you can actually achieve change.

Students need to make the transition from being a recipient of knowledge in a student-teacher relationship to realising that they will achieve things through their own energy and drive, and how they interact with other people. Theodore Roosevelt said, “No one cares that you know until they know that you care.” That’s the sort of thing that can’t be taught in a class room and can only be learned by interacting with patients.

Mentoring can assist students to develop the skill of balancing compassion and the human side of medicine with the professionalism of providing accurate and correct information.

What makes teaching medicine different from other disciplines?
Students are generally accustomed to seeing their knowledge come down to a score or a mark. However with health care, a lack of knowledge may have an impact on someone else other than themselves. Changing from the idea that it is all about ‘me’ to actually it’s all about ‘others,’ is a transition that we try to highlight.

How important is the teaching aspect of being a doctor?
A huge part of medicine is explaining to patients what the problem is and what the potential solution is in a language they can understand. Doctors are dealing with all levels of society, education and cultures, and they need to translate a complex topic into an understandable format in one of the most sensitive areas of all - the health of an individual patient. That is essentially a form of teaching.

How is the Scholarly Selective an important part of the curriculum?
The future is in our future researchers, and students are the place to start. We try to pick a topic that has enormous practical relevance to grab the interest of students who are attached to us for an agreed research project at the beginning of the year. Students can see that what they are researching has the potential to change health care behaviour, but it also involves them in the disciplines of day-to-day laboratory research. The students experience a clinico-laboratory link in a topic can potentially change how we do medicine.

This year the two students assessed the carriage of superbugs amongst high risk patients in the hospital and their findings led to the hospital approving a $100,000 screening program and changing its policy on both the screening of high risk patients and the antibiotic prescribing policy for these patients.

What do you get out of teaching?
The excellent thing is seeing the students mature and the excitement they have when they are part of the team and to see the pride they feel in seeing a patient get better and understand that it was because of them – you can see it in their eyes and also their realisation that they can make a difference.

By Christina Tait