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Meet the leaders of the Curricular and Interprofessional Development Work Group

Dr. Susan Koethe

The Community Medical Education Program piqued the interest of Susan M. Koethe, PhD, Professor of Pathology, as soon as she learned about it. Her involvement in medical education is longstanding and has included work as a course director and Chair of the Medical College of Wisconsin’s (MCW) Curriculum Committee.

“CMEP is a bold and exciting move on the part of MCW, an institution I have always considered cautious,” she said. “I think it is the most innovative thing we have ever done in the area of medical education, and I wanted to be part of it.”

A primary care provider, Joan Bedinghaus, MD, Professor of Family and Community Medicine, identifies with the significance of increasing the number of primary care physicians in the health system so that it works more effectively.

“CMEP’s aim to address the shortage of physicians in many parts of the state is important to me,” she said.

Dr. Joan Bedinghaus

The two colleagues head one of several faculty-led workgroups charged with developing specific components of the Community Medical Education Program. Dr. Koethe is Faculty Lead and Dr. Bedinghaus is Associate Lead of the Curricular and Interprofessional Development Work Group. This team is responsible for developing the community-based curriculum, ensuring it is comparable to MCW’s existing Discovery Curriculum, determining how to decrease the duration of time to graduation and emphasizing interprofessional learning with other health sciences.

A closer look at Dr. Koethe

Dr. Koethe earned her PhD in Immunology from Harvard University. The focus of her career over the past 35 years at MCW has been on clinical pathology and laboratory medicine. She has served as Vice Chairman for Clinical Pathology and Associate Medical Director of Dynacare Laboratories at Froedtert Hospital. An applied field, laboratory medicine is ever-changing and holds many unique opportunities for faculty with a PhD, she said.

Working with students is the most meaningful aspect of her career at MCW, for the way they broaden one’s intellectual and cultural perspective. As course director for pathology, she helped many students discover and perfect their own style of learning.

“I love running into students who were in the pathology course when I was course director and seeing what they are doing now,” Dr. Koethe said. “Finding they are happy with their career choice and their lives gives me a sense of great satisfaction. I’m convinced that working with students is the best way to keep your mind active because they are always challenging.”

Dr. Koethe has kept students’ needs at the forefront of the workgroup’s efforts. Those who enroll in the program, she said, can expect a competency-based curriculum that will prepare them to enter any field of medicine, though it will emphasize primary care and encourage practice in rural and underserved areas in Wisconsin. The program will feature a robust, early clinical experience and incorporate distance learning technologies complemented by small group and other activities.

The workgroup agreed that the curriculum, across all MCW campuses would be equivalent and comply with all accreditation requirements. The team also determined the curriculum would be approximately 132 instructional weeks, that basic science learning would run concurrently with the Milwaukee campus and that all core clerkship requirements must be included.

“Building a curriculum is like building a house,” she said. “You rough it in with the foundation and the studs, and then you begin adding the wall board, selecting the paint and carpet. We have the walls up and have a good idea of what the program will look like. Now we are making decisions about the details.”

A closer look at Dr. Bedinghaus

Dr. Bedinghaus greatly values the relationships forged between physicians and patients, and she imparts insight from her experiences as a family physician to her students.

“I most enjoy teaching about doctor-patient communications and relationships,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to develop training programs in communications skills. I also enjoy having patients with complex interacting problems. I like the challenges of working out solutions and coordinating their care with specialists.”

These interests make her perfectly suited to a career in primary care. Dr. Bedinghaus received her MD from Harvard Medical School and completed her residency in family medicine at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital. She joined MCW in 1996 and serves as associate director of the third-year Family & Community Clerkship.

“Family Medicine emphasizes the whole context in which patients live – their relationships, their jobs, their neighborhoods and cultures,” she said. “I’m curious about people, and I like to look at all those aspects when dealing with their health issues.”

She notes that analysts of the U.S. health care system say that access to quality primary care is the key to better health outcomes, improved patient satisfaction and reasonable costs. Multiple forces, including high levels of student debt, training based at academic medical centers where primary care has a lower profile, and low levels of reimbursement compared to procedure-oriented specialties, have contributed to lower interest in primary care among new graduates than is needed to meet demand, she said. This is an area in which the MCW Community Medical Education Program can have an impact by reducing the time to completion of the degree program, subsequent reduction in student cost and debt, and an educational experience that immerses students in the community.

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Page Updated 08/19/2013