Author: Theresa Suart
Medical grad receives Queen’s University Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award
One of the highlights at Convocation on May 21 was the admission of one of the Meds Class of 2015 to the Queen’s University Tricolour Society.
Benjamin Frid was admitted to the Society through the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award—the highest honour given to a Queen’s student for non-academic, non-athletic activities. Recipients are chosen by their fellow students.
For Frid, it had been a bit of a wait to be inducted into the Tricolour Society: He was actually nominated and accepted for the award in 2012-2013, but it is presented upon graduation.
The award—named after Dr. Agnes Benidickson, Chancellor of Queen’s University from 1980 to 1996—is presented in recognition for valuable and distinguished service of outstanding individuals to the University. According to the Tricolour website, “such service may have been confined to a single field, or it may have taken the form of a significant contribution over a wide range of activities.” For Frid, his contributions definitely spanned a range of activities. Among those contributions included in the citation read at convocation were:
- He founded the Kingston chapter of Making Waves, a student-run organization that provides affordable private swimming lessons for children with disabilities
- He was Aesculapian Society president
- He formed of a wellness committee to address mental health issues for medical students
- He was founder and president of the Health Care Management Interest Group, a team involved with addressing the deficit in financial literacy that many physicians today are burdened with
“Ben’s spirited inclusive, and enthusiastic approach to life has influenced the lives of innumerous students and the greater Kingston community for the better,” the citation said.
Frid’s journey to this award actually began with his first undergraduate degree where he had what he describes as “limited extra-curricular involvement.”
“It left me feeling that I had really missed out on a lot of interesting and important opportunities,” he wrote in an email interview. “I think university is the perfect time to start becoming more involved. You are surrounded by such energetic people and a university that wants to help students do great things, I really think it’s the best time in person’s life to try and make a difference and improve the lives of those around them.”
Frid got more involved at the Telfer School of Business at the University of Ottawa where he started the Ottawa Making Waves chapter, was a teaching assistant and began taking leadership courses. This new habit of involvement continued when he came to Queen’s School of Medicine.
“At Queen’s, I was heavily involved in student government through our class council, our Aesculapian Society, and the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (in addition to lots of other groups and projects), but by far my favourite was Making Waves!”
Frid admits that balancing extra-curricular activities with medical school studies wasn’t always easy. “I had to learn some new skills and become a more organized person,” he said. “Fortunately, Queen’s faculty are very supportive of students who want to be involved,” he added.
“I think extra-curriculars are an important component of mindfulness,” he pointed out. “Just like eating well and exercising regularly, finding consistent positive and rewarding experiences are a key part of managing the heavy workload of medical school.”
“Even though it can create a bit of a time crunch, I think I was a far better medical student for the extra responsibilities I took on.”
“The beginning of medical school should not be the end of your hobbies and passions,” Frid said when asked for advice for the incoming Class of 2019. “Grow them! Pursue what you have loved to do, and take advantage of all the new experiences that will soon present themselves. Your fellow medical students are every bit as passionate as you are, and together you can do incredible things.”
Frid noted that he is “inspired by the people I have had the privilege of working for,” and pointed to one example from the early days of Making Waves in Kingston.
“I remember wondering how long it would take for instructors and their kids to bond, and for us to start seeing evidence of value we were generating for the community,” he said. “While setting up for just the second lesson, I remember watching one of our kids recognizing his instructor in the aquatic centre lobby, his eyes opening wide as could be, and him launching into a full speed sprint with arms outstretched to go hug his instructor he had only met one week before. I knew then that we had happened upon something special and that memory has stayed with me.”
Frid will begin his Family Medicine residency in July here at Queen’s. As he moves on to the post-graduate program, he’s left Making Waves in good hands. “The medical students in the classes of 2017 and 2018 are doing an incredible job of growing Making Waves from where we left off, and are to be commended for their hard work and successes,” he said. “Making Waves Kingston is a Queen’s-wide initiative with key leadership from the Queen’s School of Medicine, and it is thriving under its new leadership.”
According to the Society’s web page, Frid is the first medical student to receive the Tricolour since Ahmed Kayssi (Meds2009) in 2005-2006. Because of this, Frid was “particularly proud to be attracting some attention to the amazing things Queen’s Medical students have been doing year in and year out.”
Frid said he felt very honoured to receive the award and was quick to point out that he had much support along the way: “None of the projects I was involved in were individual, so I feel very grateful to the QMed faculty and students, particularly my classmates in the Class of 2015, that helped those projects be successful.”
Queen’s student wins 2015 Sandra Banner Award for Leadership
Queen’s Class of 2015 student Eve Purdy received the CaRMS Sandra Banner Award for Student Leadership at the CaRMS forum held in conjunction with the Canadian Conference on Medical Education (CCME) in Vancouver on April 26.
Richard Reznick, Dean of the Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences, presented the award on behalf of the award selection committee.
“Eve has always challenged herself to be a leader and is never afraid to ask questions and really to push the limits,” Reznick said. “She has a passion for evidence-based medicine and has demonstrated a strong ambition to be a leader in this field.”
“In just the last two years, Eve has made notable contributions to medical education, particularly in advancing and promoting the role of social media in medical education,” he said. “She’s also served as a mentor and an educator for our younger students. She has a stellar, unbelievable record of volunteerism and has won numerous academic and community awards.”
Reznick noted: “Her unique combination of energy, dedication and leadership stand out as an example we can all admire.”
“I’m also absolutely thrilled that Eve’s chosen to become a resident at Queen’s next year, so we have the great honour of having her for the next five years at Queen’s,” he added. “I have no doubt that this award will contribute to Eve’s continued development in medical education.”
“I am completely overwhelmed to be accepting this award in an audience that is chock full of people I admire greatly,” Purdy said.
Citing the Queen’s School of Medicine motto which translates as “a doctor works with her hands and her heart”, Purdy observed that “during my time at Queen’s, I’ve also realized that great educators and great leaders do work exactly in the same way.”
“Queen’s is just full of people who are going to support students and who are willing to build us up to become the best that we can,” she said. “I don’t want to start naming names, because there are way too many people at the Queen’s School of Medicine who have supported me and all of my classmates on our journey. And I’m thrilled to be there for another five years.” Purdy will be an emergency medicine resident as of July 1.
Purdy also thanked her mentors from the online world of medical education. “There’s a completely inspiring group of educators who are engaging online. Not only have they helped me get through medical school by producing free content that I found very accessible and useful for learning clinical material, but they’re engaging with each other in a way that is collaborative, and is in itself a form of leadership.” She encouraged others to join this online discussion by getting a Twitter account and finding people who have like-interests. “It’s changes my world and my path and my journey,” she said.
“I’m very appreciative of this award and will use it to its full potential,” she said.
The purpose of these annual awards, established in 2013 by the CaRMS board of directors, is to encourage the development of future leaders in medicine, through public recognition and financial support of one undergraduate and one postgraduate medical trainee who has demonstrated interest in/aptitude for leadership.
Each award is accompanied by up to $3,000 in funding to support learners’ proposed leadership activities, such as leadership conference feeds, formal leadership education at an accredited educational institution, or for a leadership elective.
Call for information on community projects
As mentioned in a previous blog post, the UGME Service Learning Panel is interested in compiling an inventory of student volunteer initiatives which may fit the definition of service-learning.
The call was sent to all students through the class presidents’ weekly email. Students are encouraged to send information about their current initiatives, even if these may not 100 percent fit the definition of service-learning.
Deadline for submitting information for this inventory call is May 15. Submissions are to be sent to the Service Learning Advisory Panel via Brian Rutz firstname.lastname@example.org
Full details on this call are included below:
UGME Service Learning Advisory Panel
Call for Established Community Actions
Recognizing value of Citizenship in the MD program we, here at Queen’s Medicine, “believe that our students should be active contributors and participants in the leadership of their communities, society and professional organizations” and wish to encourage, facilitate, and support such endeavours.
As such, the Undergraduate Medical Education Service Learning Advisory Panel would like to offer recognition and support students within the Faculty of Medicine who are currently engaged in service learning.
What is Service Learning?
Service Learning extends volunteer service to include deliberate preparation (including where feasible consulting stakeholders), the service, and formal reflection on learning. For this call, Service Learning may include development of a new project or may be participation in existing volunteer opportunities that meet a previously identified community concern.
For this call, the Service Learning Advisory Panel is seeking to identify, recognize, and support students and student groups currently engaged in service learning and request their input and assistance in formalizing and incorporating service learning as a permanent program within Undergraduate Medicine. A Service Learning Fund has been established for this purpose. (A second call will be issued for new projects).
2015 UGME Service Learning Panel Call for Community Actions
If you are currently engaged in the community (individually or as a group) in a manner that meets all or some of the definition of service learning, as described above, we want to hear from you!
Please provide us with a brief description of your current community engagement. We ask that you keep your description to a maximum of 300 words.
Deadline to reply to call: Friday May 15, 2015
Instructions for responding to call: email email@example.com
Bollywood, gnomes and time travel, oh my!— 45th Annual Medical Variety Night promises an entertaining evening
Anyone wandering through the second floor of the Medical Building after hours some days this term could be forgiven for wondering if they’d accidentally ended up in a dance studio instead of a medical school.
What was actually happening was rehearsal for one of the dance numbers for this year’s Medical Variety Night (MVN). The show takes place Friday, April 10 and Saturday, April 11 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.) at Duncan McArthur Auditorium at 511 Union Street West and will be hosted by Emily Kerr (MEDS2017) and Alessia Gallipoli (MEDS2017).
I set out to find out more about what’s in store at the 45th edition of MVN, “House of CaRMS” by emailing this year’s co-directors: Beverly Guan (MEDS2017), Jimin Lee (MEDS2017), Jordan Sugarman (MEDS2018) and Nathan Terrana (MEDS2018).
This year’s theme of “House of CaRMS” was selected by popular vote, inspired by the American political drama series, “House of Cards.”
“The television series features scheming, power-hungry characters doing everything it takes to climb the ladder of success,” Guan wrote back on behalf of her co-directors. “Naturally, we saw some potentially humorous parallels with the CaRMS process.”
Co-Directors’ Top 5 Reasons to Check out MVN:
Discover hidden talents of medical students at Queen’s
Find out what we have been doing with our spare time
Support everyone who has put their time and effort into MVN
Donate to great charitable causes
Have a great time!
The co-directors and performers are keeping as much of the program under wraps as possible (we have to go see the show to find out more), but they tease that we can expect hilarious class skits and videos—“featuring gnomes, time travel, CanMEDS competencies, and more!”—the largest Bollywood act in MVN history, the first ever QMed Qrew hip hop number, a concert pianist, and many talented musicians and singers.
It’s that kind of enthusiasm and talent that has helped ensure MVN is an enduring QMed tradition.
“Whether students want to have their moment in the spotlight, film promotional videos, manage the show behind the wings, or even just bake for our bake sale, there is a role for everyone in MVN,” Guan wrote.
MVN is a significant time investment to create two evenings of entertainment. Why do so many medical students pitch in? “Perhaps it is because it is during these grueling hours of preparation and rehearsal that we learn something important about ourselves, something we don’t learn sitting in class,” Guan wrote. “We learn how to deal with our frustrations and manage our insecurities. We learn about the joy of striving for perfection but also the beauty of imperfection. And, most importantly, we learn that succeeding together, as a team, is just as fulfilling — if not more so, than succeeding as an individual.”
Each year, MVN proceeds support charities selected by the students. This year, they’ve chosen the Class of 2017 project, “Reads for Paeds” and Almost Home, a local Kingston charity.
“Given that a significant portion of the class in involved in the Reads for Paeds project, we wanted to collaborate with them in raising funds to print storybooks, written and illustrated by our class, to explain common chronic illnesses affecting children,” Guan wrote. “We also wanted to select a local charity that supports families with children who are receiving medical treatment, and Almost home fit this criteria perfectly.”
More information on both Reads for Paeds and Almost Home is available on the MVN website: www.houseofcarms.com
In addition to funds raised through ticket sales, there are other fundraisers at the show, including a bake sale, raffle tickets and a silent auction for one large MVN banner featuring pictures of the performers. Donations are also being accepted (all donations greater than $50 receive a tax receipt).
Tickets are sold for $12 online and $15 at the door. Online ticket purchases and online donations can be made here.
Dr. Anthony Sanfilippo, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Medicine has announced three new teaching assignments.
David Taylor will be taking on the leadership of the Internal Medicine Training Program as of July 2015. Dr. Taylor is an internist and a member of the division of General Internal Medicine. His clinical practice is focused on acute care general internal medicine, as well as refractory hypertension.
“I think this is great for both David and the program,” Dr. Sanfilippo said. “During his time as the Director of the Internal Medicine core clerkship rotation, he made great strides in improving the experience for our students, as evidenced by significant improvements in their performance in a number of key outcomes, and increased interest in our own IM training program by our graduating students.” Dr. Taylor was also a valuable contributor to the Clerkship Committee and the UG program in general, he added.
Laura Milne will be assuming the role of Director of the IM core clerkship. Dr. Milne completed her undergraduate medical studies, general internal medicine residency, and general internal medicine fellowship at Queen’s University. She worked as a community general internist prior to joining the Division of General Internal Medicine at Queen’s in 2013. Her clinical practice is focused on acute care general internal medicine, stroke prevention, and refractory hypertension.
“Laura’s done a stellar job with the Term 4 Clinical Skills program and is well suited to this new challenge,” Dr. Sanfilippo said. Dr. Taylor will work with Dr. Milne during her transition to this new role until he officially takes over the training program in July.
Jocelyn Garland will be taking on leadership for the Term 4 Clinical Skills course. Dr. Garland completed Internal Medicine and Nephrology Training at the University of Western Ontario in 2001. Since that time, Dr. Garland has been working as an Assistant Professor of Nephrology at Queen’s University, where she is a clinical researcher. In 2009, Dr. Garland completed her Masters in Community Health and Epidemiology, and she is a member of the Queen’s University Vascular Calcification Research Group. Dr. Garland is also a highly regarded teacher, having received two Department of Medicine teaching awards for her work in teaching medical students. She served as the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Program Director for the Nephrology Fellowship Program at Queen’s University from 2006- 2011.
“I think this is a great fit given her interests, prior experience and career interests,” Dr. Sanfilippo said. “She will work with Laura as the current course continues, and Laura has graciously agreed to help with the review of this year’s course, and development of next year’s iteration.” In this new role, Dr. Garland will be working with Kathy Bowes (coordinator) and Cherie Jones (Clinical Skills Director).
Service-learning: Asking questions to learn what’s happening
As discussed in a previous blog post, formalizing opportunities for service-learning is increasingly important to schools of medicine, both for the inherent merits of service-learning itself (for both learners and communities), as well as for accreditation considerations.
Queen’s UGME has been exploring ways to address service-learning more systematically, including appointing a Service Learning Advisory Panel. One of the interesting things about service, however, is because of its very nature, it often happens quietly, behind the scenes.
In order to better support undergraduate medical students engaged in service-learning projects, the Panel wants to shine a light on these projects. With this in mind, the Panel, whose members include students, faculty and administrative representatives is issuing a call for information about current community service projects.
Not all volunteer projects meet criteria to be considered service-learning. There are many definitions of service-learning (in fact, there are close to 200 in the literature). The definition Queen’s UGME has adopted (based on one used by the LCME) states:
“Service-learning is a structured learning experience that combines community service with preparation and reflection. Medical students engaged in service-learning provide community service in response to community-identified concerns and learn about the context in which service is provided, the connection between their service and their academic coursework, and their roles as citizens and professionals.”
The key triad includes planning (including consulting relevant stakeholders), service, and reflecting on learning. Using this definition, there may be volunteer projects are or could be service-learning as well.
For example, Queen’s Medicine Health Talks sprang from a student interest group. When these first started, the students prepared lectures (under the supervision of practicing physicians) on a number of clinically-relevant topics and invited members of the community to the School of Medicine to hear these lectures. The aim was to welcome and integrate the Kingston community in medical learning. Extending this into service-learning, the students now engage in collaborative planning with both faculty and community members. As well, the lecture series now includes community centres as venues. A post-service evaluation helps students reflect on their learning.
The students involved in the Health Talks took that extra step and asked community members: “What do you want to learn about?”
In the same way that great service-learning projects include a key step of consulting the community about what’s important, the Service Learning Panel wants to hear from members of the UGME community about what they’re already doing by way of service-learning. The next question is how can UG help? Then, what else would you like to do and what support do you need to make this happen?
The Service Learning Advisory Panel’s goal isn’t to change our students’ focus on service: we just want provide support and recognition for these important endeavours in our communities.
The first call is for Established community actions. A second call will focus on new projects. Look for these in the regular UG email communication to all classes. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.
Wrapping up case-based learning sessions effectively
We often spend a lot of time planning our classes, especially our case-based small group learning (SGL) sessions. We tailor our sessional learning objectives to the course objectives that have been assigned, selected solid preparatory materials, build great cases and craft meaningful questions for groups to work through.
This makes sense, as the small group learning (SGL) format used in Queen’s UGME program is modeled on Larry Michaelsen’s team-based learning (TBL) instructional strategy that uses the majority of in-class time for decision-based application assignments done in teams.
One comment we often read on course evaluation forms and hear directly from students, however, is that sometimes they walk away from an SGL session and still aren’t sure what’s important.
Much of the focus in the literature on TBL is on the doing – setting things up, building great cases, asking good questions to foster active learning. There’s not as much written about how to finish well.
Wrapping up your SGL session should be as much a planned part of your teaching as preparing the cases themselves. If you build the time into your teaching plan, you won’t feel like you’re shouting to learners’ backs as they exit the classroom, or cut off as the next instructor arrives. Nor will you find yourself promising to post the “answers” to the cases on MEdTech. Sometimes it’s not the answers that are important, but the steps students take to get there.
Wallace, Walker, Braseby and Sweet remind us that the flipped classroom we use for SGL (preparation before class, application in class) is one “where students adopt the role of cognitive apprentice to practice thinking like an expert within the field by applying their knowledge and skills to increasingly challenging problems.” One such challenge is figuring out what the key take-away points are from an SGL session. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to plan your session summary, but then have students take the lead since “the expert’s presence is crucial to intervene at the appropriate times, to resolve misconceptions, or to lead the apprentices through the confusion when they get stuck.”
So, have your own summary slide ready – related to your session objectives – but keep it in reserve. In keeping with the active-learning focus of SGL, save the last 10-15 minutes of class to have the groups generate the key take-away points, share them, and fill in any gaps from your own list.
Here’s a suggested format:
- Prompt the groups to generate their own study list: “Now that we’ve worked through these three cases, what are the four key take away points you have about this type of presentation?”
- Give the groups 3-4 minutes to generate their own lists
- Have two groups share with each other
- To debrief the large group, do a round of up four or five groups each adding one item to a study list.
- Share your own list – and how it relates to the points the student raised. This is a time to fill in any gaps and clarify what level of application you’ll be using on assessments.
- If you’d like, preview an exam question (real or mock): “After these cases, and considering these take-away points, I expect that you could answer an exam question like this one.” This can make the level of application you’re expecting very concrete.
Why take the time to wrap up a session this way? Students often ask (in various ways) what the point is of a session. With clear objectives and good cases, they should also develop the skills to draw those connections themselves. This takes scaffolding from the instructor. As Maryellen Weimer, PhD, writes in Faculty Focus, “Weaning students from their dependence on teachers is a developmental process. Rather than making them do it all on their own, teachers can do some of the work, provide part of the answer, or start with one example and ask them for others. The balance of who’s doing the work gradually shifts, and that gives students a chance to figure out what the teacher is doing and why.”
If you would like assistance preparing any part of your SGL teaching, please get in touch. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
 Wallace, M. L., Walker, J. D., Braseby, A. M., & Sweet, M. S. (2014). “Now, what happens during class?” Using team-based learning to optimize the role of expertise within the flipped classroom. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25(3&4), 253-273.
Happiness, Wonderment, and Career Choice
By J. Peter O’Neill, M.D., M.Div.
During the first week of medical school, I introduce myself to the first year class, and proudly say that I am happy in my career and then I give my entire careers curriculum in one breath. I say: “You were selected to medical school because of outstanding individual academic performance and excelling in the admissions process, but you will be selected for residency only if you can look ‘happy and interested’ and can be wanted by a residency team.”
Each year, most students look back at me with disbelief. They think there must be some MCAT or GPA equivalent in medical school that “will get them in” to residency. They were not part of a team that got in. Nowhere in their preparation for medical school did anyone tell them to look happy.
But being happy and interested can make anyone look great; especially if it is true. It is probably what residency programs look for most. Happy and interested come first, then honesty and diligence. It is not just my personal opinion either.
In our published study on career choice[i] we showed that students choose their residency program based on the variety of clinical experiences, resident morale, and closeness of family. In other words, they wanted a program where residents looked happy and interested, and connected to their families.
We were not the first ones to notice this, but we quantified it with a new method. The Harvard Study on Happiness[ii] showed that happy people enjoyed their careers. People who were open to growth, wanted to do something significant, but also wanted relationships and humor in their lives were happy and successful. Residency programs desperately do not want unhappy residents.
Humor and wonderment are characteristics of the best teachers and mentors in medicine. Drs Neil Piercy and Mike McGrath taught me that. They could enjoy their work with humour, and find affirmation and wonder in the smallest surgeries. I encourage my students to practice wonderment by asking them what they find “cool”. But I wasn’t the first to notice this either. Dr. Ian Cameron writes that many Canadian medical icons share this life long affinity to humour and wonderment.[iii]
Some students come to medical school full of humor and wonderment, and by tending to their physical, mental, academic and spiritual health they still have it. They don’t have to beat CaRMS, they just have to be themselves. Faculty should nourish them by demonstrating the same. Students should practice being part of a team that values humour and wonderment and connectedness to others, by doing that everyday, with their peers.
[i] BMC Medical Education, 2011, 11:61
[ii] George Vaillant, Adaptation to Life, 1977
Are you up to the challenge?
Queen’s medical students have issued a challenge to the entire UGME community to change some habits in February with the #keepsmewell positive wellness challenge.
Spearheaded by the Mental Health and Wellness committee, the challenge includes month-long goals such as eat balanced breakfasts and sleep 7 hours a night as well as weekly challenges that include such things as make a new recipe, try a new activity, call a friend and skip the elevator to take the stairs.
To take the challenge, students, faculty and staff are invited to form teams of four (the challenges are slightly altered for faculty and staff – only student teams will take part in the MED LAW Games, for example). Teams earn points for each activity members complete and there will be prizes at the end of the month. (The challenge is funded by an AMS grant and a generous anonymous donation.)
Teams need to open a Twitter account and track their activities with tweets throughout the month, including the hashtag #keepsmewell .
“We’re attempting to get all four years to engage,” says Alyssa Lip, the committee’s chair. “There are options for clerks to do this remotely so they can have team members across the country and still be a team for this competition.”
Encouraging faculty and staff to join in was a natural extension of the challenge. “We wanted faculty and staff to be involved because they’re a part of the medical community that we engage in,” says Lip. “It’s also very inspiring to see that faculty and staff care about their wellness, and about our wellness.”
“The goals of this challenge are to focus on changing our everyday habits into positive ones – preventative medicine!” Lip explains.
In addition to Lip, the committee includes: Executive: Natasha Ovtcharenko, Shannon Chun, Rufina Kim, Meghan Bhatia, Amy Jiang, Alicia Ling, Elena Bianca, Meherzad Kutky; preclerkship members: Arian Ghassemian, Beverly Guan, David Carlone, Jonathan Krett, Madelaine Baetz-Dougan, Olivia Suppa, Sarah Edgerley, Fay Zhu, Calvin Santiago; and clerks Brandon Maser, Hollis Roth, Soniya Sharma, and Debarati Chakraborty.
When Lip and Aesculapian Society VP Academic Natasha Ovtcharenko sat down at the beginning of the year to update the committee’s terms of reference, they “felt strongly that mental health and wellness activities should focus on programming to enact effective changes around our QMed community,” Lip says. “This initiative grew from an amalgamation of smaller ideas and past initiatives that we drew inspiration from. For example, the competition idea came from a successful Movember campaign by the 2017 class council last year, while the self-care aspect was an existing current trend and the social media aspect came from Ottawa Med’s smaller #keepsmewell campaign.”
The wellness challenge is in line with the committee’s three overarching themes:
- Providing wellness resources (they’ve started monthly sessions for students to relax and chat confidentially and have created resource cards and pamphlets available in the Medical building at all times)
- Creating a stigma-free environment (they’ve started a three-part “Frames of Mind” speaker series geared to all mentors in medicine—faculty, staff, colleagues. The first one was on Identifying and Responding to Students in Distress)
- Positive habits (they want to focus on maintaining wellness, and developing mechanisms and habits that can build more resilience and not just address ‘when things go wrong’).
For Lip, her key take-homes are that little things you do every day can make a big difference, such as sleeping and eating breakfast. “And taking time out of ‘work’ to do something unrelated, for yourself, is important” such as taking a yoga class or watching a movie.
The challenges for #keepsmewell reflect this philosophy. “We made a point to keep each activity simple, because those are the habits that are easiest to change and make the most difference,” she explains. “It’s an ambitious pilot to what we hope to become regular yearly program!”
Lip and the rest of the committee have been overwhelmed by the support their classmates have given and how people have responded to this initiative. “We really hope people will get something out of this by the time March rolls around.”
All members of the Queen’s UGME community are invited to attend the information session on January 29 at 12:30 p.m. in 132A in the Medical Building. To register, email Alyssa Lip (email@example.com) by February with the names of your team of four. She’ll send a tracking sheet to get you started.
The Educational Development Team is on board! The committee graciously granted us a waiver on the “mixed gender” rule as our team consists of four women and they’ve let us register as a challenge team. Are you in? (Follow us @QMedEdFabFour)
Figuring out what’s important in a faculty evaluation report
Critics only make you stronger. You have to look at what they are saying as feedback. Sometimes the feedback helps, and other times, it’s just noise that can be a distraction.
Separating the useful feedback from the noise in students’ comments on faculty evaluation questionnaires is an annual challenge for all university instructors– not just at Queen’s School of Medicine. It was recently the topic of a Faculty Focus article by Isis Artze-Vega, associate director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Florida International University. She offered solid advice for those of us who feel angst over student evaluations.
As a side-note: the headline on the Faculty Focus article points to “cruel student comments” but just because there’s negative feedback doesn’t mean the comments are (or should be) cruel or rude. Student in the School of Medicine are given guidance about completing course and faculty evaluations at the beginning of every year. They’re encouraged to be professional in completing them, so while there may be constructive feedback, it should never degenerate into merely cruel criticism. Students are also encouraged to provide concrete suggestions for ways to improve.
Dr. Artze-Vega suggests seven key approaches to responding to student evaluations.
First, she advises faculty to analyze the data. The Education Team routinely does this for course evaluations for course directors and the Course and Faculty Review Committee, but not for individual faculty evaluations. Analyzing comments is a great starting point; otherwise, human nature often has people hyper-focusing on the wrong things. Are you reading an outlier opinion, or is there a theme in multiple students’ comments? “Identifying themes will help you determine whether they warrant a response,” Artze-Vega writes.
Ask any actor or director and they’ll tell you: negative feedback is easy to remember. American film director Peter Farrelly has said: “With all of my films, if I get one bad review and a bunch of good reviews the bad one is the only one that will stay with me.” Artze-Vega cautions to resist the lure of the negative. Don’t automatically dismiss a negative comment, but “consider: Am I focusing on this because it’s ‘louder,’ or because it’s a legitimate concern?”
Considering feedback this way flows into Artze-Vega’s third key: Let your critics be your gurus. Citing a New York Times article, she points out that “we often brood over negative comments because we suspect they may contain an element of truth.”
A fourth approach is to find counter-evidence to negative comments. You can look for or remember comments that contradict the negative one. (If your faculty evaluation report is anything like some course evaluation reports, sometimes, you’ll find these comments in the same evaluation report from other students).
Artze-Vega stresses that “we should devote at least as much time to students’ positive comments as their negative ones”, so her fifth key is dwell on the positive ones. If you hyperfocus on negative feedback, you can lose sight of the many things you are likely doing well – and that students appreciate. To aid in this, she further advises to read them with a friend. “A more objective party can help you make sense of or notice the absurdity of the comments because they’re not a personally invested in them.”
Finally, Artze-Vega advises to be proactive. “If you don’t conduct this analysis yourself, you’ll be at the mercy of whomever is charged with your evaluation—and they probably won’t be as thorough,” she points out. “Also, take the time to provide explanations about any off-the-wall student complaints, so that your reviewers don’t draw their own conclusions.”
One way to be proactive, is to solicit feedback earlier, when you can still make adjustments for this cohort of students, rather than waiting for the end-of-semester one to help with next year’s planning.
When she’s teaching a full course, Sheila Pinchin, Manager, Educational Development and Faculty Support has always used her own evaluation forms three weeks into a course and three weeks later to get just this type of feedback.
Terry McGlynn, an associate professor at Cal State, also advocates this approach as one of his tricks-of-the-trade to avoid bad teaching:
“I often use a supplemental evaluation form at the end of the term. There are two competing functions of the evaluation. The first is to give you feedback for course improvement, and the second is to assess performance. What the students might think is constructive feedback might be seen as a negative critique by those not in the classroom. It’s in our interest to separate those two functions onto separate pieces of paper. Before we went digital, I used to hold up the university form and say: “This form [holding up the scantron] is being used by the school as a referendum on my continued employment. I won’t be able to access these forms until after the next semester already starts, so they won’t help me out that much.” Then I held up another piece of paper [an evaluation I wrote with specific questions about the course] and said, “This one is constructive feedback about what you liked and didn’t like about the course. If you have criticisms of the course that you want me to see, but don’t think that my bosses need to see them, then this is the place to do it. Note that this form has specific questions about our readings, homework, tests and lessons. I’m just collecting these for myself, and I’d prefer if you don’t put your names on them.” I find that students are far more likely to evaluate my teaching in broad strokes in the university form when I use this approach, and there are fewer little nitpicky negative comments.”
If you do decide to use this type of mid-course feedback, keep your questions few and focused. (Otherwise, there’s potential for evaluation-fatigue on the students’ part, which lowers the quality of the very feedback you want).
If you teach in the Queen’s UGME program and would like some assistance in separating the useful feedback from the noise, I’m available to assist you with this. Drop me an email. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
See more on this topic from an earlier UGME blog post here.