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Kern Institute

Coaching for Character Caring & Competence

The Kern Institute at MCW recognizes the great potential of learning communities in facilitating the development of character, caring and competence in medical education. The Coaching for Character, Caring and Competence (4C) Program is structured around the core concept of learning communities - consistent groups of students and faculty in a longitudinal relationship to cultivate personal and professional growth. 

4C: Coaching for Character, Caring & Competence

4Cs Coaching Program

The striking advancement of medicine in the last few decades has brought increasing challenges to medical education. Specifically, medical students now must demonstrate competency in expanding skills and knowledge domains in a clinical learning environment that faces greater complexity, time constraints, and financial pressures than ever before. The challenges generated by such circumstances can have numerous consequences, including burnout and mental illness in both learners and teachers. To better support students and reduce these potential problems, many medical schools have implemented learning communities (LCs). LCs were first developed on undergraduate campuses to foster professional growth of students with similar academic interests. LCs partner faculty members with groups of students for the duration of medical school and utilize these longitudinal groups for community-building, academic support, professional development, and curricular activities. Studies of LCs have demonstrated substantial improvements in faculty engagement, student well-being, and professional development.

The Kern Institute at MCW recognized the great potential of LCs to facilitate the development of character, caring, and competence in medical education. After exploration of LC-related components and features with Kern National Network partners and MCW students and faculty, the Coaching for Character, Caring, and Competence (4C) program was launched in August 2019. 4C is structured around the core concept of LCs – consistent groups of students and faculty in a longitudinal relationship to cultivate personal and professional growth. Within this framework, multiple different components can be implemented to meet specific objectives (Figure 1). Roughly 50 students volunteered for the program during AY2019-2020. With its initial launch, 4C centered on longitudinal coaching, but in subsequent years, near-peer mentorship and curricular activities will be piloted as well. Throughout its progression, 4C will retain its innovative focus on character and caring, while it works to enhance student progression toward and achievement of competency across multiple domains.

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4C Coaches

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Kurt Pfeifer, MD

Member, Student and Curriculum Pillars, Kern Institute

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Marty Muntz, MD

Director, Curriculum Pillar, Kern Institute

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Karen J. Marcdante, MD

Member, Faculty Pillar, Kern Institute

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Christopher S. Davis, MD, MPH

Member, Faculty and Cross Pillars, Kern Institute

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Sara M. Dunbar, DO

Assistant Professor

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Elizabeth Ellinas, MD

Member, Faculty and Cross Pillars, Kern Institute

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Cassie Ferguson, MD

Director, Student Pillar, Kern Institute

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Jose Franco, MD

Director, Cross Pillar, Kern Institute

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Rainer G. Gedeit, MD

Professor of Pediatrics

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Alexandra Harrington, MD, MT (ASCP)

Director, Faculty Pillar, Kern Institute

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Tracey H. Liljestrom, MD

Assistant Professor

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Jane Machi, MD

Member, Student Pillar, Kern Institute

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Vanessa McFadden, MD

Assistant Professor, Pediatrics Hospital Medicine

Kris Harlander Saudek, MD

Associate Professor