The special challenges of researching teaching and learning

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We’re passionate about teaching and learning and equally passionate about evidence-based medicine. So, it follows that we’re also interested in evidence-based teaching methods. That translates into interest in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at the School of Medicine.

This means we have teachers interested in conducting research studies about their teaching and in finding better ways to help students learn. This is a particularly challenging type of research that raises unique issues about power, confidentiality, captive populations, and the burden on participants.

The Queen’s General Research Ethics Board (GREB) issued a four-page guideline document on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) in June 2017.

As much of the research conducted by those involved in the UGME program focuses on SoTL – and the HSREB is aligned with the Queen’s GREB – these Guidelines are relevant to research considerations for both faculty, staff, and student-led projects.

The Guidelines document draws attention to studies with direct student involvement, as well as self-studies, which both have implications for student privacy, including during the research dissemination process.

For studies with direct student involvement, other considerations that are highlighted include:

Power Differential

The power-over relationships between instructors/researchers and students can impact the students’ decision to participate in the research. This differential can be managed by keeping the instructors/researchers at arm’s length from the students by person or time [with suggestions provided]

Captive Populations

This term can be applied when participants are dependent on an ‘authority figure’ (e.g., instructor/researcher) who can infringe on their freedom to make decisions. [Guideline include ways to mitigate this risk.]

Participant Burden

The main purpose of formal education is for students to gain knowledge, not to be participants in research. If students are repeatedly asked to participate in research studies, their educational pursuits may be compromised. It may be of value for instructors/researchers to consider what other types of research are being conducted with students to diminish the impact of participant burden. Also, instructors/researchers should try to design studies that help enrich the students’ educational experiences instead of distracting from those experiences.

Confidentiality

Students may have concerns about whether or not their instructors/researchers know if they took part in the research. Students may feel their decision not to participate in the research could impact their academic trajectory. [Includes suggestions for how to mitigate this risk].

[Excerpts from pages 2-3 of the Guideline]

If you’re interested in creating a study related to your teaching in the UGME program, feel free to get in touch with the Education Team to talk through some of these challenges. We’re here to help.


The complete four-page document is available here under “Guidelines” or use this direct link to download the PDF file

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Five things attending a gaming expo reinforced about medical education

It’s March Break in much of Ontario – including for UGME students and faculty at Queen’s School of Medicine – so I found myself at “EGLX” in Toronto with my 13-year-old son. Billed as “Canada’s Largest Video Game Expo” the three-day extravaganza included virtual reality, cosplay, exhibitors, panels, artists, a giant Nerf battle, and various and sundry gaming competitions. Given that the height of my gaming career was “VICman” (a Pac-Man knock-off by Commodore back in the early 1980s) and playing a mean game of Tetris (so, translation: Worst. Gamer. Ever.), this is perhaps one of the last places anyone would expect to find me. However: moms do stuff. (Dads do, too. My husband valiantly went to TWO days of it). In this and other unfamiliar territory, medical education is rarely far from my mind. Here are five things the expo reinforced about Med Ed:

  1. Be open to new experiences

VR is cool, but the set-up takes some getting used to for it to work well.

This one works for both teachers and students. Whether it’s tackling a new subject or trying out a different teaching or assessment method, it can pay off to be brave and just dive right in. While I’m not a gaming convert, EGLX gave me a new view to some of my son’s interests and showed the breadth of the industry. When we do the same thing over and over again, we can get trapped in our own “bubble” of experiences and not realize what else is out there. There’s value in new perspectives.

  1. Learning works in multiple directions

I’m used to being in the role of educator – both as a parent and at work, where I’m mostly behind the scenes in the planning stages. It’s important to remember that learning isn’t mono-directional. At the expo, I was the rookie, and my kid the mentor. (And my husband, the trade-show veteran, was the navigator). In medical education, learning comes from our faculty, our students, allied health professionals, our patients and their families.

  1. Technology is cool

More pedaling = more power

What starts as games can turn into tools and vice versa. Some of the virtual reality stuff at the expo was pretty cool (fly like Superman, anyone?) and, for parents, the cycle-to-power-the-game stuff never gets old. (Just when am I going to be able to buy one?). Likewise in the classroom and clinics – what’s the next good thing to enhance learning?

  1. Celebrate accomplishments

One whole segment of the expo featured projects by students at Sheridan College. While this, of course, served to promote the programs at the college, it also gave students well-deserved recognition for hundreds (thousands) of hours of work, problem-solving, and creativity. Sometimes the accomplishments of our students and faculty become routine to us – we need to take time to showcase and celebrate the great things we’re doing.

  1. If something doesn’t work the first time, try something else.

My son wanted to meet some of the YouTube gaming celebrities. (Yeah, I learned this is a thing). Our first day there, we were waiting in a very long line that was moving about one person every five or six minutes. I counted those ahead of us, did some math and figured we’d be there for about 2.5 hours before we hit the front of the line. We ditched the line and went to an awesome ribs place for supper instead. The next day, my son and husband went to one of the YouTube gamer panels, left strategically early, and landed second in line. Likewise in Med Ed, sometimes we introduce innovations and don’t get them quite right. We need to step back, figure out what went wrong, and go at it a different way.

Next week: Five things about medical education reinforced by the multiple shoe stores at the Vaughan Mills Mall. (Just kidding…. Maybe).

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2018 KHSC Exceptional Healer named

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We wrote about the Kingston Health Sciences Centre Exceptional Healer Award last fall (link here) encouraging nominations for the second iteration of the award which recognizes a physician who demonstrates in clinical practices the core concepts of patient- and family-centred care: dignity and respect, information sharing, participation, and collaboration. It’s sponsored by the KHSC Patient & Family Advisory Council.

In February, Dr. Shawna Johnston was named the 2018 winner of the award. Dr. Johnston was praised by the selection committee for putting patients and families at the centre of care.

(Left to Right) Patient Experience Advisor Sue Bedell, Chief of Staff Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick and Dr. Shawna Johnston Credit: Matthew Manor/KHSC From: http://www.kgh.on.ca/kghconnect/news/privileged-be-her-patient

Patients, families and staff nominated 21 physicians for the award. Thirty-four nominations were receive, with about 25 percent coming from KHSC staff. (Medical students are included in the “staff” category and may submit nominations). This annual award was created by the Patient & Family Advisory Council to honour physicians of KHSC for demonstrating the core concepts of patient and family-centred care (PFCC) in their clinical practice. These concepts are: dignity and respect, information sharing, participation, and collaboration.

Dr. Johnston, a urogynecologist and international expert on vaginal health, was cited for providing the highest respect and empathy for her patients who deal with pelvic floor disorders such as organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.

One patient wrote: “She took her time and explained the surgical procedure. She was innovative in drawing diagrams for me and allowed time for me to ingest this information and to ask as many questions as I needed. I never felt rushed.”

Dr. Johnston was also praised for treating family members as partners and “an extension of the clinical team.” It was also noted that Dr. Johnston models these behaviours to residents. This, one patient noted “is a gift from her to future practicing physicians and to the communities that will welcome them.”

Dr. Johnston works with Queen’s medical students in MEDS 443, the Obstetrics & Gynecology clerkship rotation. Herself a graduate of Queen’s School of Medicine, Dr. Johnston said that she was trained to be a good listener by the late Dr. Neil Piercy.

“I was taught to always put myself in my patient’s shoes, especially when surgery is involved,” she told KGH Connect. “It’s a big decision, and you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why my patients help me to decide what will work best for them. I’m always open to more questions—I spend a lot of time on the phone—because the patient needs to buy into the treatment. Otherwise, it’s not good care.”

“Families play a big part in treatment decisions because they’re the ones supporting the patient at home,” she added. “The choices we make need to work from both the patient and care provider perspective.”

Patient Experience Advisor Sue Bedell, chair of the award selection committee, was delighted by the staff support for the award. “It shows that fellow caregivers, along with patients and families, deeply appreciate physicians who provide respectful and compassionate health care.

Other physicians nominated for the award were:

  • Dr. Manny Bal
  • Dr. Michael Brundage
  • Dr. Barry Chan
  • Dr. Jay Engel
  • Dr. Michael Flavin
  • Dr. Michael Leveridge
  • Dr. Peter MacPherson
  • Dr. Laura Marcotte
  • Dr. Andrea Moore
  • Dr. David Reed
  • Dr. Michael O’Reilly
  • Dr. Mark Ropeleski
  • Dr. Robert Siemens
  • Dr. Sid Srivastava
  • Dr. Yi Ning Johanna Strube
  • Dr. Benjamin Thompson
  • Dr. Anna Tomiak
  • Dr. Naji Touma
  • Dr. Brent Wolfrom
  • Dr. David Yen

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On a gumdrop cake fail and multiple points of assessment

What can a failed gumdrop cake remind us about assessment?

I’m a pretty good baker and love to indulge myself when there’s time, like last month’s holiday season. For me, baking is partly about eating (of course!) but also about tradition, hospitality, and comfort.

Just before Christmas, I set out to make a gumdrop cake. It was an unmitigated disaster. When I turned it out of the pan, it collapsed. (See embarrassing photo at right).

Based on that single point of baking, a casual observer could determine that I’m a lousy baker. In fact, I should be barred from the kitchen and given directions to the closest bakery for all subsequent treats. This wouldn’t be a fair representation of my skills, just a snapshot of a single – bad! – evening.

It’s the same for our system of assessment in the UG program: no single assessment determines a student’s progress. We use multiple points of assessment, both in preclerkship classes and through clerkship rotations, to ensure we have an accurate portrait of a student’s performance over time. Admittedly, some assessments are higher stakes than others, but no single assessment will determine a student’s fate in the program.

Anyone can have an “off” day – for any number of reasons. What’s important following poor performance, is to take stock of what happened, reflect on what may have contributed to the poor outcome, and make a plan for next time.

I was really upset. I’d made this many times. I was “good” at this. Had I somehow lost my baking mojo? Plus, I was embarrassed — as well as annoyed with myself for wasting all kinds of butter, sugar, eggs, flour and gumdrops!

My adult daughter gamely offered this advice: “Sometimes a new recipe takes a few times to get right.” Except it wasn’t a new recipe. I’ve made this gumdrop cake dozens of times for over two decades. What could possibly have gone wrong? I reread the recipe (photocopied from my mother’s handwritten book) and my scrawled notes in the margins. I’d used mini-gummy-bears in place of the “baking gums”. In trying to be cute and expedient (didn’t have to chop those up!), I’d sabotaged my own cake. I’d also forgotten to put the pan of water on the bottom rack, but I thought that was likely pretty minor.

For students after a poor assessment, that same reflection can help: did I study or practice enough? Was it efficient study/practice? Was I under the weather? Did I have enough sleep? These self-reflection questions will vary based on the type of assessment, but it boils down to this: What can I learn from this assessment experience and what can I do differently next time?

I waited over a week before I attempted the gumdrop cake again. In the meantime, I (successfully) made four kinds of cookies, a triple-ginger pound cake, and a slew of banana breads. Then, I bought the right kind of baking gumdrops and remembered to follow ALL the instructions, and it turned out just fine. In fact, I sent some to my parents in New Brunswick and my mother judged it “delicious”.


With thanks to Eleni Katsoulas, Assessment & Evaluation Consultant, for her continued counsel on assessment practices.

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Facebook thinks I’m a doctor…

 

And other unusual things that happen when you’re an educational developer at a medical school

It’s a unique and interesting thing being one of the non-medically-trained employees who work (mostly behind the scenes) to help run the undergraduate medical education program at Queen’s. On the one hand, friends and family can sometimes think I’ve magically completed medical school in the types of questions they ask me. (I only work there, I say). On the other, through day-to-day interactions, I have absorbed terminology and “insider” information.

Having quietly marked my five-year anniversary working in medical education at the end of September, it was time for a little reflection. Here are five of the more unusual things that likely wouldn’t have happened to me before I worked at Queen’s School of Medicine:

  1. A new resident was surprised when, during a follow-up visit, I referred to my condition by name (gastroesophageal reflux disease), rather than calling it heartburn. “Most people don’t call it that,” she observed with surprise. I’d just done a curricular search for where and when we teach it – and at the earlier visit, that’s the term they used, so I paid attention.
  2. I can find my way around most of HDH and most of KGH most of the time. And I know there are THREE hospitals in Kingston, not two. (I just haven’t figured out the new Providence Care layout yet.) I’ve learned the “logic” of the multiple wings, the naming conventions, and – when all else fails – where to find the volunteer desk to ask directions.
  3. I now know that what you think something is might not be what it actually is. Case in point: My colleague’s son was diagnosed with OCD – but he’s not the least bit obsessive, so how does he have obsessive compulsive disorder? There’s another OCD, diagnosed by orthopedic specialists: Osteochondritis Dissecans of the knee. (It also stands for Ontario College Diploma, but that’s another story).
  4. Facebook thinks I’m a doctor. No, really, I get ads for MD Financial Management services, and medical conference. It’s based on analytics harvested from my Google searches (because everything is frighteningly linked these days). I search for things to assist with curriculum development, and voila! Facebook has changed my profession.
  5. I actually use those ubiquitous hand sanitizer dispensers while entering and leaving the hospitals. Every single time.

Because, as an educator, I just can’t help it: here are educational take-away lessons and considerations from these musings:

  1. When you’re “inside” you can forget what it’s like to be “outside”: how can remembering this influence communication, for example, in explaining acronyms, procedures, or what happens next? There’s power in language and understanding.
  2. When we’re familiar with buildings and facilities, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be in an unfamiliar place and worried about getting around. How can we make instructions and directions as clear as possible?
  3. Don’t assume. If you’re not sure: ask. For example, we’re talking a lot about EPAs lately in undergraduate medicine. We don’t mean the US Environmental Protection Agency, but Entrustable Professional Activities. Even if we’re trying hard to adhere to my suggestion #1, we might slip up. Speak up and ask for clarification.
  4. Facebook still thinks I’m a doctor now and again, but more recently it’s promoting space-saving storage ideas and junk removal services. (I’m still adjusting to our downsized townhouse, 15-months in). The lesson here: We leave digital footprints everywhere we go. Intentionally (e.g. through public Twitter posts) or unintentionally through Google searches, nothing we do online is private. How should this influence what we do and how we do it?
  5. Paper cuts and hangnails do not like hand sanitizer. At all. Ever. Be careful.

Here’s to the next five years.

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Nominations open for next Exceptional Healer Award

Instilling the values of patient-centered care is one of our goals in the UGME program. It’s also what the Kingston Health Sciences Centre Exceptional Healer Award recognizes in physicians from both the Hotel Dieu and KGH sites.

Launched earlier this year, the Exceptional Healer Award is sponsored by the KHSC Patient & Family Advisory Council. It honours a physician who demonstrates in clinical practices the core concepts of patient- and family-centred care: dignity and respect, information sharing, participation, and collaboration.

Patient Experience Advisor Sue Bedell brought the idea of the award to the Patient and Family Advisory Council and is now coordinator of the award project.

Patient Experience Advisor Susan Bedell

“I happened to have a particularly compassionate and empathetic doctor,” Bedell explained in an interview for how she came up with the idea. “I think it’s important for all people, for all physicians, and healthcare professionals, to be treating sick and injured people with compassion and empathy.” So, she looked for a way to recognize this. She presented her idea to the council at Hotel Dieu, and drafted terms of reference and a nomination form. “I wanted to make sure that I could persuade not on the patient council, but the administration that this was something doable, so they approved it,” she said.

For the first time through, Bedell had hoped to get five or six nominations: instead, the council received 22. Response to the creation of the award was “better than I had ever expected,” she noted.

A selection committee, including Bedell, two other patients, two staff members, and the chief of staff, reviewed these submissions. For the first award, it was a tie: ophthalmologist Dr. Tom Gonder and anesthesiologist Dr. Richard Henry were the winners for 2017. Each received multiple nominations, Bedell said.

Bedell shared that the major themes from all the 2017 nominations were the nominated physicians were dedicated listeners, showed empathy and compassion, took time to spend with patients, focused on inclusion and care of family members, shared information with patients, and demonstrated humility.

“All of these are easy to attach to the core concepts of patient- and family-centred care,” Bedell noted.

Following the first iteration, which had a February deadline, it was decided to run the next iteration earlier in the year, with a November deadline for nominations with the committee’s decision in December, and the presentation early in 2018. The deadline for nominations is Friday, November 3.

Patients and family may nominate a physician who has provided care to them in the last two years. KHSC staff can also nominate members of the health care team. Bedell said that medical students on clerkship rotations can submit nominations.

“I do hope, in the long run, that through this award, and these role models can influence medical students,” Bedell said. “When they listen, to have the intent to understand, rather than just reply – that would be an example.”

“Being a dedicated listener seemed to be most important to the nominators,” she added.

Bedell emphasized that both KHSC hospital sites are full of very competent, skilled, compassionate doctors, and this award is one way to recognize these attributes

There’s still time to nominate a physician for the 2018 award. With the amalgamation of the two sites into the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, physicians from both the Hotel Dieu and Kingston General Hospital sites are eligible to be nominated. Full details are found here on the Exceptional Healer Award website.

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Meet Jenna Healey, the new Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine

The new Jason A. Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine knows most Queen’s medical students aren’t going to memorize historical dates and events as a matter of routine, and that’s perfectly okay.

Dr. Jenna Healey notes that instead focusing on dry facts – that these days can readily be looked up — one excellent use of history is “to take a step back every once in a while and to think about the bigger picture.”

“Sometimes it’s easier to do that when you’re thinking historically because you have that little bit of distance. And then you can apply those same critical thinking skills to ongoing controversial issues or new things that come up within your career.”

“We might be looking at a bio-ethical case from the 1960s and, well, ‘they were so wrong,’ right? I’ve taught history of bioethics before, and we have to think about contemporarily, how did people understand what they were doing, what were the standards of their profession? Not necessarily to defend something that we now understand to be unethical, but to understand what the environment was like for those physicians – and then to think about what we find acceptable. Because, in 50 years, inevitably, someone is going to critique us.”

“Sometimes it’s easier to think about these things historically.”

Healey herself didn’t set out to become an historian – of medicine or anything else. Her undergraduate studies found her juggling her twin interests in humanities and science. To accommodate this, she pursued a combined arts & science program at the University of Guelph. “It was a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences,” she explains, “so basically a BA and a BSc at the same time.”

“I was doing an English literature degree along with a molecular biology degree and I was thinking about going to med school, maybe going into public health, and my other career in my head was to be a science journalist,” she shares. “Part of my program requirement was to take an introductory history of science course because you sort of had to combine the two – and I really liked it. So I ended up getting a summer job in the history department as a research assistant; and then the next summer I worked there, too.”

That’s when she started learning about the history of medicine as a discipline. This led her to do a master’s degree in the history of science at the University of Toronto, and later a PhD at Yale. “And I just never left,” she says.

“It turned out to be a very good way to combine my two interests,” she adds, “And to stay within the world of medicine and science without becoming a clinician.”

Prior to being appointed to her position at Queen’s on August 1, Healey was a lecturer at Yale, where she mainly taught pre-medical students. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work directly with medical students,” she says.

She hopes much of what she brings to students is that focus on the big picture.

“I want them to think think critically both about the past of the profession, and as cliché as it may be, to learn from the mistakes of the past, and the paternalism of the past, and to really think about themselves as part both of a longer historical legacy, to think about the socio-economic determinants of health,” she explains. “I think history really helps with that: to think about why is our health care system the way it is? How do your patients perceive the medical profession? How does the public perceive medicine? What are the notions they are coming in with?”

Healey also hopes to help students “think critically about the ways new technologies are going to change patient care and the clinical experience, both for physicians and for patients, because technology is something I’m really interested in.”

Healey recognizes that it can be a challenge to “sell” students on the value of spending time on the history of medicine – something her predecessor, Dr. Jacalyn Duffin did in the position for 30 years before her retirement.

“I think you always have to do a bit of justification for why you’re even learning this, and I understand that, as someone who was an undergraduate in the sciences: There is just a lot to do,” Healey says. “There’s a lot to learn, there’s a lot to memorize, a lot of labs to finish. And it’s hard to see, maybe the relevance in that moment, because you just have so much to finish.

“I think, especially in a medicine curriculum, it’s to constantly say ‘it’s ok to take this hour’; this is worth learning, and to get across the idea that people who haven’t taken a lot of history think it’s just a lot of boring facts, and that the point of it is to memorize those facts – and that’s not it at all

“If you leave medical school here and you don’t remember all the details of Harvey’s discovery of circulation, I’m fine with that,” she says. “But it’s more the critical thinking and the historical thinking. And when you do encounter a problem in your career, you can think: how did things get this way? If people take that away, I’d be very happy with that.”

In addition to the lectures and other learning events she has already been working on, Healey has met with members of the student-run History of Medicine group.

“It was exciting for me to get here and see there was already an established a group of students who are very excited about the history of medicine – and that’s all a credit to Dr. Duffin and the program she already had in place and the students are so fired up and excited about it.”

There’s already talk of the next “History of Medicine” trip. “I think it’s a great tradition and I’m really excited about it,” she says, noting all the planning is student-led and logistics (including destination) are in the works.

Dr. Healey will soon be settled into her new office at 80 Barrie Street and looks forward to meeting more students and colleagues.

“I’m very excited and very happy to be here.”


For more on the Ontario Hannah Chairs, check out this link.

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Names matter

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

 So mused the ill-fated heroine in Romeo and Juliet, about her equally ill-fated love.

In medicine and in teaching, however, names can mean a lot.

The late Dr. Kate Granger of the United Kingdom was one of the strongest advocates for using names with her #hellomynameis campaign – launched while she lived with terminal cancer. As explained in a BBC article following her death in July 2016, the campaign “encouraged healthcare staff to introduce themselves to patients.”

“A by-product of her own experiences of hospital in August 2013, it grew out of the feelings of unimportance she experienced when the doctor who informed her that her cancer had spread did not introduce himself,” the BBC wrote. Granger had explained it this way: “It’s the first thing you are taught in medical school, that when you approach a patient you say your name, your role and what you are going to do. This missing link made me feel like I did not really matter, that these people weren’t bothered who I was. I ended up at times feeling like I was just a diseased body in a hospital bed.”

Learning and using names is important for both teachers and students, long before they reach patients’ hospital beds. For this reason, we emphasize the importance of names in our UGME classrooms and clinical skills environments, too.

“Learning students’ names signals your interest in their performance and encourages student motivation and class participation,” writes Barbara Gross Davis in Tools for Teaching. “Even if you can’t learn everyone’s name, students appreciate your making the effort.”

One of the strategies of learning students names that Gross Davis (and others) suggests is one we’ve adopted at Queen’s UG: having students use name tent cards in the classrooms. This was adopted for two reasons, Dr. Lindsay Davidson, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Integration explains.

“It’s because we start developing professional identity from Day 1, and being a doctor means introducing who you are.”

“And because it helps build relationships,” she adds. “Student-student but also teacher-student—teachers can respond to students as individuals with names not ‘the guy in the ball cap’.”

“We expect all medical students to wear identification nametags for all clinical skills sessions, both in-house and when at health facilities,” says Clinical Skills Director Dr. Cherie Jones. She notes that the Year 1 students don’t have these on Day 1 as these are provided by KGH. “We use paper ones until they are done!” Once the official badges are available, they must be worn.

And it’s not just for students: clinical skills tutors are expected to wear their ID that they use in their clinical settings.

And for all those (like me) who’ve become accustomed to wearing an ID card on a lanyard or on a hip-level clip: IDs are to be worn on the lapel of the jacket—where they can best be seen

“Name tags are important in clinical skills sessions because the Standardized Patients (SPs) and Volunteer Patients (VPs), like to know the names of the students and tutors they are working with and don’t always understand or hear the name when the student introduces themselves,” Dr. Jones explains.

The Clinical Skills policy mimics the name-badge policies at the hospitals in Kingston. “Name tags in clinical settings like KGH are mandatory for anyone interacting with patients, staff, even with visitors,” Dr. Jones points out.

“Not only is it policy in the hospital, but patients like being able to read anyone’s name – not just the students’,” adds Kathy Bowes, Clinical Skills Coordinator.

So, remember your ID badge, use your name tent cards in the classrooms, use people’s names. And me, I’ll be pinning my hospital ID badge in the right place the next time I’m heading over to KGH for a meeting.

Because names matter. To everyone.

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Anatomy studies begin with focus on respect

Each September, first year students in the Queen’s Undergraduate Medical program quietly begin their studies in anatomy with a service acknowledging the donation of bodies that will be used in the lab assignments.

This year the short service will be held on Tuesday, September 5 at 3 p.m. in room 032 of the Medical Building, following the introduction to the Human Structure & Function course.

The course co-directors, Les MacKenzie, Stephen Pang, and Allan Baer will be joined by Queen’s Chaplain Kate Johnson to lead the program.

The session emphasizes respect and professionalism. “This is the first approach to professionalism,” MacKenzie explained in an interview. “The purpose of the donations is for this study and we have to respect that.”

“Respect not just for the bodies that have been donated, but for the families who have donated them,” he added.

Queen’s is one of a decreasing number of medical schools that still uses human cadavers in anatomy courses. According to a 2016 article in National Geographic, “half of Canadian medical schools have cut back on using cadavers, relying instead on new technology to make teaching basic anatomy more efficient.”

While there is definitely a place for technology, MacKenzie acknowledged, there’s also a strong argument for using donated human bodies. He pointed out, for example, that the many variations of “normal” are not experienced if everyone is using the same computer simulated program. It’s a privilege to have this learning experience, MacKenzie noted, and the students recognize this.

The emphasis on respect is tied to one of the objectives from the Queen’s UGME Competency Framework (Professional 1.1a) which notes students will “Identify honesty, integrity, commitment, dependability, compassion, respect, confidentiality and altruism in clinical practice and apply these concepts in learning, medical and professional encounters.” For the Human Structure and Function course, this is further annotated to explain that students will: “Consistently demonstrate compassion and respect for those who have donated their bodies to the medical school for use by students studying anatomy.”

“I truly believe the point does get across,” MacKenzie said. “Our medical students really get the message, there’s no horseplay. We have zero tolerance of misbehaving.”

Queen’s Chaplain Kate Johnson, who has led the opening service in recent years, takes the opportunity to emphasize the students’ own humanity and to remind them to keep in touch with it.

“Historically, medical students were at risk of a ‘super human’ culture of medicine,” Johnson said. “Now, with technological advances, there’s the danger of taking the humanity out of medicine. The anatomy lab is one place to keep the humanity.”

Johnson also reminds students they are starting on a pathway to a position of trust.

“You’re not just technically excellent, but your professional conduct is to be worthy of trust,” she noted at last year’s service. “It’s appropriate then that this part of your education starts with the bodies of people whose last wish was to entrust their physical remains to you in order that you can be fully trained in your profession,” she said. “Even more, their surviving family members have made what is often a huge decision to trust you by following through on their deceased loved ones’ wishes.

Tuesday’s service is open to all members of the Queen’s community. “It would be great if it was standing room only,” MacKenzie said.


Each spring features a more formal, graveside burial service at the Queen’s University plot at Cataraqui Cemetery which is attended by family, friends, and members of the Queen’s community. Details on this service will be available in the spring.

For more on the Human Body Donor Program at Queen’s see A body of medical knowledge in the Queen’s Alumni Review 2017 Issue 2

For information on procedures to donate, see the Queen’s Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Human Body Donor Program web page.

 

 

 

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Bats, Blogs, and Story Ideas

While I was drafting this post, I had an unexpected visitor in my office in the form of a juvenile bat. Yep. A bat.

I followed the Queen’s Environmental Health & Safety bat protocol (yes, there is one. Find it here) and exited the room immediately, closing the door. I then had a colleague call to arrange for its removal.

Ok, there may have been some squealing-like-a-five-year-old while I was exiting the room, but since there was nobody here to see that, I can deny it happened (colleagues’ vacations and meetings were well-timed for my dignity). There may also have been some vocabulary that would earn a fine for the curse jar at my house.

Just a handful of people would know about my bat adventure… except I’m writing about it here.

My point is this: things happen all the time around the UGME offices, the medical building, and other places of importance for the UG program. Things for, to, or by our faculty, staff, and students; interesting things that are worth sharing. I’m not suggesting that we’re starting a weekly newspaper filled with notations of every bat sighting, or intramural sports scores. What I do know, however, is there are plenty of newsworthy things happening that go unnoticed.

Things like: innovative student activities or projects; research publications; special events; noteworthy field trips; students or faculty winning awards. If you’ve ever wondered why we posted about “X” but not about “Y” the simple reason most of the time, is we likely didn’t know about “Y” at all.

You may have noticed a bit of a pattern to our blog posts. Our associate dean, Dr. Sanfilippo posts roughly every other week. On the alternating weeks, members of the Education Team post, with the occasional committee update thrown in. I post under my own name, as well as curating those posted under the “Guest Blogger” ID.

Here’s where you come in. If you’re a member of the Queen’s UGME community and you have an idea or suggestion for a blog post, please feel free to get in touch. We could write something up with you as the source, or you could write the post yourself as one of our Guest Bloggers.

If your suggestion is time-dependent (like an event or something with a deadline), try to get in touch as early as you can.

I can’t promise that we’ll be able to follow-up on every suggestion with a published post, but a great starting point is letting us know. So, get in touch. Reach me by email (theresa.suart@queensu.ca ) or drop into my office on the 3rd floor at 80 Barrie. It’s currently bat-free.


Bat shown is for illustration purposes only… no pictures of my recent temporary office guest are available. 

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