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Kern Institute

Entrepreneurial-Minded Learning & Human-Centered Design

The Kern Institute at the Medical College of Wisconsin is advancing innovation in medical education by applying human-centered design principles and the tenants of the entrepreneurial mindset: curiosity, connections, and creating value. Learn how we are partnering with faculty, students and staff to innovate medical education through entrepreneurial-minded learning and design thinking methodology.

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Human-Centered Design is a team-based approach to problem-solving that uses empathy to develop a deep understanding of any problem. This allows the problem to be clearly articulated, which paves the way for brainstorming of solutions, followed by prototyping a solution that is most impactful. There is then continuous and intentional short-cycle iterative improvement to the solutions design. Human-centered design can be taught or practiced as a standalone discipline in a Core Fundamentals workshop or embedded within an existing curriculum. The Culture & Systems Pillar offers workshops ranging from 2-6 hours to help groups use this methodology to problem-solve or advance projects.

The Kern Institute Culture & Systems Pillar offers partnership with MCW departments to problem-solve, investigate possible solutions and advance programs and projects using Human-Centered Design Methodology. Our team is currently partnering on the following projects:

GME Well-Being
Using Human-Centered Design to determine the value for residents in well-being initiatives currently offered by the residency programs sponsored by Medical College of Wisconsin Affiliated Hospitals. Project Lead: Alicia Pilarski, DO, Emergency Medicine, Culture & Systems Pillar.

Using Human-Centered Design to assist diverse students in defining the value of inclusion efforts and initiatives on campus. Project Lead: Malika Siker, MD, Radiation Oncology, Student Pillar.

Student Well-Being
Using Human-Centered Design to understand and define how M1 and M2 medical students at MCW might learn the skills and behaviors that lead to improved well-being. Project Lead: Cassie Ferguson, MD, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Director–Student Pillar.

Quality Improvement & Patient Safety (QuIPS) Pathway Partnership
Using design thinking to re-imagine how faculty might teach QuIPS scholarly pathway students the key behaviors and attitudes that are necessary to succeed in the fields of quality improvement and patient safety. Partnering with faculty from the Kern Institute and UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center to introduce QuIPS students to design thinking abilities and methods.

Entrepreneurial-Minded Learning & Human-Centered Design Advisory Group


M. Chris Decker, MD

Director, Culture & Systems Pillar, Kern Institute


Julia Schmitt

Program Manager & Senior Communications Consultant, Kern Institute


Ilya Avdeev, PhD

Adjunct Professor; Member, Culture & Systems Pillar, Kern Institute


Catherine (Cassie) Ferguson, MD

Associate Professor of Pediatrics; Director, Quality Improvement & Patient Safety Scholarly Pathway; Director of the Student Pillar, Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education


Alexandra Harrington, MD, MT (ASCP)

Director, Faculty Pillar, Kern Institute


Kathryn Havens, MD

Member, Culture & Systems Pillar, Kern Institute


Karen J. Marcdante, MD

Member, Faculty Pillar, Kern Institute


Bipin Thapa, MD, MS, FACP

Member, Faculty Pillar, Kern Institute

Contact Us

Julia Schmitt

Program Manager

(414) 955-4960
Kern Institute
Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Rd., Suite M1990
Milwaukee, WI 53226