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Hear from experienced faculty who share their inspiration and advice for serving as an educator.

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Daniel Stein, MD Associate Professor Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology Department of Medicine

Dr. Daniel Stein shares his thoughts, teaching philosophy, inspiration, advice and challenges as an experienced educator.

Years in Education: 
10

Why did you choose to be an educator? 
I have always looked up to my professors that I felt are great educators. They have been my role models throughout my career and why I have chosen this career path.  

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator? 
The best reward is seeing a learner who was struggling finally accomplish their final goal.    

What is your educational philosophy? 
I feel that learners at all levels need to have two skill sets when it comes to medical knowledge. First, is not just knowing medical facts that can be tested on exam, but knowing how to access these facts quickly. Second, and more importantly, is the interpretation and application of those facts into medical practice. I try to stress both aspects of this in my teaching as all levels of education because this is the modern practice of medicine. Medical knowledge is expanding at rate way beyond what any one person can memorize.  Understanding how to access and interpret information efficiently has become an essential skill for modern physicians.

Who or what inspires you as an educator? 
Dr. James Frock, a nephrologist at my medical school, had the patience and skill to teach acid/base that I have always tried to emulate his teaching style. There are many others, but Dr. Frock was the first.

What have your students taught you? 

Continue to be inquisitive. Working with learners of all levels drives me to continue to ask questions and investigate new topics.  There is nothing better than when a student ask me a question that I don’t know the answer to and I have to research the answer.

What advice would you give to other educators? 
Be patient. Like good barbeque it sometimes takes longer that you think it to get good results.

What do you find most challenging as an educator? 
Having patience (see #6).

 
Alexandra Harrington, Professor of Pathology, Faculty Pillar Director, Pathology, Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education

Dr. Alexandra (Ali) Harrington shares her thoughts, teaching philosophy, inspiration, advice and challenges as an experienced educator.

Years in Education: 
12

Why did you choose to be an educator? 
I come from a family of teachers so adopting a teaching role in my career has always been important to me.  I also had an amazing mentor in medical school, Dr. Urias Almagro, who was a kind-hearted, jack-of-all-trades pathologist.  He loved to teach students and took me under his wing to lure me into pathology by bringing the textbooks to life through his patients.

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator? 
That depends on the learner.   

I feel most rewarded with medical student teaching when I watch our students genuinely engage in team-based learning exercises during the Heme/Lymph Unit.  I love to hear the students teaching each other!  It’s so satisfying to hear students applying their knowledge and explaining to one another how to diagnose and manage their patients in case studies.  It’s also impressive to hear students using medical vocabulary that they literally just learned fluidly in those explanations to each other.   
I feel most rewarded teaching my Pathology residents and fellows when I’m asked the tough, practical questions while staffing our patient care service.  It’s invigorating to work with trainees that want to learn hematopathology and ask application and experiential questions to improve their diagnostic skills.   
What is your educational philosophy? 

I believe that it is critical that students learn fundamental sciences through patients, so in my classes, we always learn concepts through patient cases.  When I’m teaching residents, fellows, or pathology colleagues, we are always learning through our patients’ biopsy material or clinical presentation. 
I also believe students should have multiple different learning modalities at their disposal and it’s my job to ensure that happens.  I recognize that our students and trainees learn differently and therefore I try to make different resources available to students.

Who or what inspires you as an educator? 
Student and resident inquisitiveness inspire me.  I am also so inspired by my talented colleagues in the Kern Institute and beyond.  I learn from these friends every day and grow personally and professionally with their influence.

What have your students taught you? 
My students have taught me to be humble, as have my patients.  My medical students have asked really hard questions over the years in the Heme/Lymph Unit.  It keeps me on my toes!  When I was a younger teacher, I used to think I had to have all the answers, but now with age, I know that I can’t have all the answers.  And I certainly know that I can’t predict all the questions that students will have.  So I’ve learned to be OK saying I don’t know in the moment and then when I leave the classroom or the multiheaded microscope, I research the answer and disseminate it!

What advice would you give to other educators? 
Try new things in your classroom!  Take risks!  I have had so much fun launching new curricular innovations in the Heme/Lymph Unit, such as an IPE session with the medical students and laboratory professional students, wellness activities with Cookie Day and team puzzling, and the team-based learning activities.  And for the most part, they have been well received and successful.  I would not have succeeded though, had I not tried.  I recognize that it is easy to go with the status quo and with what works, and that its intimidating to think a change or variation might fail.  Nonetheless, I think innovation should be a constant in education, with the goal of meeting our students’ learning needs.

What do you find most challenging as an educator? 
I find it hard to keep up with the exploding electronic resources available to students and residents!

 
Adina Kalet, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine (tenured), Stephen and Shelagh Roell Endowed Chair, Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education

Dr. Adina Kalet shares her thoughts, teaching philosophy, inspiration, advice and challenges as an experienced educator.

Years in Education: 
Lots!  I taught dance 1976-1982 and then taught regularly throughout my training in Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency in 1984-1987 and Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program/University of North Carolina School of Public Health in 1988-1990. From 1990-2019, yes 29 years, I was on faculty at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine where I held a wide range of different educational roles. Most recently I designed and taught a Mentor Development Program for our Clinical Translation Science Institute. I arrived at MCW September 2019.

Why did you choose to be an educator? 
I had a small handful of remarkable teachers and mentors who inspired me starting from my 5th grade teacher who believed I was smart, even though I wasn’t yet reading fluently. From that point on, education choose me. I was a dancer as a teenager. I wasn’t a particularly skillful performer, but I was an enthusiastic dance teacher and did a lot of it. I loved thinking about how my students learned complex psychomotor things, like dancing. I was fascinated with how important the relationship between learner and teacher was to the ultimate success of the learner and the satisfaction of the teacher. My residency training program was unique in that the expectation was that the residents did a lot of the teaching. Clinical reasoning fascinated me, clinical epidemiology fascinated me, psychosocial medicine fascinated me, faculty development fascinated me, and so on and so on. I became an assessment expert which led to a great deal of remediation work. I became the institutional “go to” for professionalism remediation. Then we wrote a book on the subject. 

These days I find working with individual students who struggle academically or lapse in their professional behavior very satisfying. 

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator? 
When I was an intern at Bellevue Hospital in NYC during the first, very challenging years of the HIV epidemic I made it an evening ritual to sit down with “my student” and find out what they were learning and how they were feeling. We were inevitably sitting side-by-side and multi-tasking, entering lab values into the patient charts, answering pages and writing notes. I might deliver a few key “pearls” if need be; how to interpret the CBC (“yes the MCV is over 100 and the Hemoglobin is 6!- crazy right? What do we think is the underlying mechanism for this pattern in this case?”), how to read an EKG (“see the J-point elevation- ignore it!”), but mostly I listened to their questions and concerns. Then we went from bedside-to-bedside to talk with “our” patients. I loved it when the patient was well enough to help me teach the student. We would review new information, check physical exam findings, and discuss the plan- all together. More often than not, these conversations were full of “bad news” and very sad. Having both roles, teacher and doctor, made these moments especially meaningful. Many times, I witnessed a student’s “ah-ha” learning moment. I felt like I was helping the student “become a physician”. From time to time I get a thank you from one of those students, many of whom have had full careers caring for patients and changing the world.  Very rewarding. 

What is your educational philosophy? 
Our job is to ensure that all people have access to the excellent physicians they deserve. How we teach medicine matters much less than what our students learn and what meaning they make of that learning. I believe that learners should be in control of and responsible for their own learning in the context of strong relationships with educators, peers and patients, accountability and rich assessment programs. I believe that the responsibilities of educators are to set clear aspirational expectations, create learning and assessment opportunities and attend to the formation and internalization of the student’s identity as a physician. 

Who or what inspires you as an educator? 
I am about to celebrate my one-year anniversary at MCW. What a year!  I have been very inspired with the commitment and creativity of all my new colleagues and our students as we all navigated the unexpected unprecedented events of this past year.  


What have your students taught you? 
My students have taught me; that teachers who care and have high expectations matter, that being “nice” is never enough, that we are in this together, that they desire and are perfectly capable of being full partners in their own education, that sometimes they need a “break”, that sometimes they “lapse” and deserve forgiveness and the opportunity to re-establish trust and that they are our future. Awe inspiring.      

What advice would you give to other educators? 
Never forget we are educating physicians. The rest is commentary. 

What do you find most challenging as an educator? 
I am most challenged by students, residents and colleagues who demonstrate, what psychologist Carol Dweck has called, a “fixed mindset”. They believe in innate talent. They believe you either “got it or you don’t”. They also tend to be overly concerned with how they perform as an individual, timid about trying new things and are insecure about their own abilities. I know It is a personal flaw. But I can’t accept this point of view. I feel obligated to try to capture their hearts and change their “mind”. I want everyone to have more of a “growth mindset” -holding the belief that anyone who is sufficiently motivated and takes care of themselves, is capable of learning what they need to know with persistent hard work. This issue of mindset has important implications for how we approach admission to medical school.  

By the way, I did eventually learn to read in 5th grade, but I still can’t spell to save my life.

 
Craig Hanke, PhD, Assistant Dean of Basic Science Curriculum Green Bay Campus

Years in Education:
20 years

Why did you choose to be an educator?
I think it was because of some outstanding teachers who fundamentally influenced my life. They all had unique teaching approaches and communication styles, but I remember truly looking forward to each of their classes and how easy it seemed to learn this material. I wanted to draw on those experiences and try to share that impact with my own students.

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator?
I love the challenge of breaking a tough topic down to fundamental concepts and then crafting an explanation that will make sense for the particular level of the student I am teaching. Working with a group of students and seeing the “light go on” is my favorite part of the work.

What is your educational philosophy?
Teaching is a highly individualized activity and we all learn to prioritize certain elements based on our individual skill set. I tend to prioritize organization and explanation. Organization is a critical first step for me, thinking about how each new topic builds on the foundations of an earlier topic and how I can link those ideas together to create a flow. There are elements of performance in teaching and I think that flow and pacing of a class session is an important part of keeping students engaged. I also like to use analogies to enhance an explanation and to make abstract concepts more immediately accessible to the student. Open communication is a priority and I try to build and maintain trust with the students to support class discussion and questions when they are struggling with material.

Who or what inspires you as an educator?
Creativity... I love to hear about all the creative new classroom approaches teachers develop to reach their students. From the scientific perspective, the application of cognitive neuroscience principles to education fuses two of my favorite topics. I am always interested in the potential applications of neuroscience principles to improve results in the classroom.

What have your students taught you?
Many things. First, how to be comfortable saying “I don’t know”. No matter how many times I teach a topic, there is always a new wrinkle that I haven’t considered. Second, that enthusiasm for a topic is infectious. If I don’t have obvious enthusiasm for the topic, they won’t either.

What advice would you give to other educators?
I learned many of the things I now use on a daily basis over lunch with colleagues. Education is a group activity and sharing ideas between innovative, enthusiastic colleagues always makes a great lunch conversation.

What do you find most challenging as an educator?
Time seems to be the ever-present limitation. We often don’t feel there is enough time to cover all the essential core information even in a lecture and it would be ideal to have more opportunities for active learning. On an optimistic note, we are learning new ways to effectively incorporate technology into our teaching. Over the next few years, I think this may allow us to become more flexible with how we spend our time in the classroom.

Bipin Thapa, MD, MS, Associate Professor, Assistant Dean of Clinical Curriculum Department of Medicine

Dr. Bipin Thapa shares his thoughts, teaching philosophy, inspiration, advice and challenges as an experienced educator.

Years in Education: 

10 years

Why did you choose to be an educator? 
I was interested in teaching and learning since my medical school days. I started formally teaching while I was a senior medical student and continue to this day.  While teaching, along the way, I became interested in curriculum development and assessment. I started working on curricular development at various levels and at various stages, locally and nationally. So, it was an evolution for me. And, I find it fulfilling.

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator? 
Seeing some 200 plus students march in their green regalia each year at commencement is the most rewarding moment for me as an educator. It takes about four years for us, about a decade for them, and a couple of decades for their family and loved ones to get them there. And, that is the day when so many dreams are fulfilled. 

What is your educational philosophy? 
Education is about making learners seek the answer in a systematic approach. It is not about giving the answer. I think we need to teach them how to learn, not just what to learn. Instilling constant curiosity is the purpose of education.

Who or what inspires you as an educator? 
In my early years, my teachers and mentors inspired me. I have been fortunate to have had great teachers in my medical school and residency days. Currently, my learners inspire me. Seeing a curious learner is an inspiration.

What have your students taught you? 
Someone said “nothing teaches like teaching” and my students taught me that it is indeed true. Apart from that, they have taught me many life lessons from their own life experiences and various backgrounds. 

What advice would you give to other educators? 
It takes courage to teach. You will be vulnerable at moments, unsure of your own knowledge at times, and some sessions you teach or programs that you develop will not be of the kind you wanted. It happens to every educator, just don’t give up! 

What do you find most challenging as an educator? 
Medical education has so many moving parts, so many partnerships and so many regulations with great impact on health, the economy and society as a whole. It is very challenging to navigate through all these aspects. The good thing is that we work as a team while navigating and addressing these challenges. These challenges are also opportunities to practice and work on time-relevance and learner and patient-centric medical education.

 
Matthew Hodges, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Physiology

Dr. Matthew Hodges shares his thoughts, teaching philosophy, inspiration, advice and challenges as an experienced educator.

Years in Education: 
11 years

Why did you choose to be an educator? 
I chose to educate students because it is tremendously rewarding to pass on vital information that can serve as the foundation for higher learning. By serving our students in this capacity, we create the basis for life-long learners – life-long students in fact. While our job titles and skillsets may ultimately be very specific, a shared trait in all successful professionals is that we share a passion for learning. As an educator, I hope to inspire my students to be life-long learners.

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator? 
I feel most rewarded when my explanation of difficult concepts resonates with large groups of students. We all have specific ways we remember information, but when I can convey that same level of understanding to many students based on how I teach it, it is very rewarding.

What is your educational philosophy? 
My philosophy is to keep it simple. An analogy to how I approach teaching is like building a house. You begin with the most simple and complete explanation for the foundation and structure of the house, and then add increasingly more difficult concepts on to layer the depth of the topic which would be akin to adding the plumbing, electrical and heating in the house. When you are successful in conveying the foundational concepts, it will nearly always enable higher levels of conceptual understanding when considering complexities in higher education.

Who or what inspires you as an educator? 
I am always inspired by professors that bring energy and passion into lectures, and further inspired by those that understand material at great depth but can provide simplistic explanations. A particular instructor that I try to emulate is Dr. Hershel Raff, who is an outstanding educator that clearly explains difficult concepts in an engaging and entertaining way. For decades he has captivated large numbers of students in his lectures even if the material he is teaching is less than exciting.

What have your students taught you? 
I always say that the best students bring something new to the table. My students have taught me that there is no one right way to teach. Each of us learns best through different means and modalities, and by providing the best and most concise figures and explanations (along with several different sources) to students gives them multiple opportunities to acquire new knowledge.

What advice would you give to other educators? 
Be as clear and concise as possible. Simplicity reigns supreme. If you require several paragraphs to convey one key concept, then you may be failing your students. Build the foundation brick by brick before you layer on complexities and details, as the foundation will be there longer than the rest of the house.

What do you find most challenging as an educator? 
I find it most challenging to be concise and precise at the same time. Every concept has caveats that make it very tough to be concise without being incorrect. It requires a deep understanding of the material to present it in its most simple, digestible and (still) correct form.

 
Melinda Dwinell, PhD, Professor, Department of Physiology

Dr. Mindy Dwinell shares her thoughts, teaching philosophy, inspiration, advice and challenges as an experienced educator.

Years in Education: 
My whole life?

Why did you choose to be an educator? 

It probably chose me.  Both of my parents were educators - my mom was a German teacher in a bilingual elementary school and my dad was a Professor of Geography.

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator? 
When a student as mastered the material well enough to teach it to others.

What is your educational philosophy? 
To provide students with the foundation to have confidence and interest to keep asking the next question.  

Who or what inspires you as an educator? 
Through education, you can inspire the next generation of scientists or clinicians.  It is also really fun to engage the public in a topic that seems challenging and help them build a foundation of knowledge in an unfamiliar topic.

What have your students taught you? 
To start and end with the big picture.

What advice would you give to other educators? 
Prepare early, don’t try to pack too much material into a single session at the expense of time to fully understand the fundamental components, and solicit feedback.

What do you find most challenging as an educator? 

Matching teaching styles to the many learning preferences in the current generation of students. 

 
Sandra Pfister, PhD, Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology
In the early 1990s, Dr. Pfister was a basic science researcher in a lab where, out of habit, only male animals were being used. She began to advocate for the use of female animals as well and started ordering female animals and comparing data in her research. This piqued her interest in looking at sex differences in the medical data.

Once she became more involved in teaching, especially in the medical school’s Cardiovascular Unit where there is a definite difference between the sexes, Dr. Pfister felt it was important to expose the students to the differences in disease processes for females as opposed to males. So, she added a lecture and worked with her clinician co-director to co-teach a session on Women and Heart Disease. 

Dr. Pfister began to define and use the terms “sex” and “gender” appropriately. After reading a review article, she worked to incorporate transgender health and hormone therapy into the Cardiovascular Unit as those patients have an increased link to heart disease. 

Dr. Pfister works to think of ways to include sex and gender as part of the medical school curriculum. When she went through the Leadership Academy she began to ask if there was a better way to do so and began to research the issue more thoroughly, including attending the Sex and Gender Medical Education summit in 2018. She gave a presentation to the Curriculum and Evaluation Committee (CEC) on sex and gender in the medical school curriculum and is working to find better ways to capture what is currently being taught. 

Dr. Pfister explains that faculty don’t necessarily understand the differences in sex and gender which may be a reason they don’t know how to teach about it. In a faculty survey she conducted for her Leadership Academy project, only 20% of faculty reported their training was sufficient to be able to teach about sex and gender. In addition, it may be hard to prioritize sex and gender education when there are other important topics that are also not represented in the curriculum. 

However, Dr. Pfister is excited about the Froedtert Inclusion Health Clinic, hoping it can serve as a resource for incorporating more inclusion topics into the curriculum over time. The first task is helping people understand the difference between “sex” and “gender.” We are also just now learning about differences between the sexes, so there is a lot of discovery still to be made in this area. 

Dr. Pfister is happy to serve as a contact for advice and guidance as faculty work to incorporate sex and gender into their classrooms. She encourages faculty to provide comparison cases where the difference is in the sex of the patients to demonstrate the differences in diagnosis and management of disease. 
 
Josh Noe, MD, Associate Professor Department of Pediatrics Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition
Years in Education: 
11

Why did you choose to be an educator? 

Being able to watch a learner transition to mastery of topic and being able to help provide that learner the resources they need in order to successfully do so is an incredibly rewarding experience.

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator? 
When a student comes to you to tell you something that you did either directly or indirectly helped them reach the next stage of their career. 

What is your educational philosophy? 
The curriculum, assessment methods, and all the educational tools we have available are there for the student, not the other way around.  Have the student body help improve those tools for future generations, and the product will improve.

Who or what inspires you as an educator? 
I am always in awe of people who can take something mundane and turn it into something that enthralls a learner into the topic.  Most times this is a creative method that they use to draw the student into the material and inspires them to learn.

What have your students taught you? 
To never be satisfied or stationary in what we offer the students.  At the same time, it’s okay to take risks and try something new, but don’t hide behind it.  Be transparent with the students about why you are making these changes; if you do this, you will get the most valuable feedback on your final product.

What advice would you give to other educators? 
If you want to make a career out of education, don’t just “teach”.  Find a way to build upon what you do.  Design a program, build a product, or write up what you are doing.  It’s usually not that much more work, and it will be something you can use to grow your career.

What do you find most challenging as an educator? 

Physicians and other medical professionals have more responsibilities than in the past, between electronic medical records, licensing / board certification, increasing complexity of patient care, and tightening research funding – it makes it challenging to find time for our learners.  Educators have to get creative to make sure we provide teachers the resources they need so they can make time in their busy schedules for our learners.
 
Erica Chou, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Dr. Erica Chou shares her thoughts, teaching philosophy, inspiration, advice and challenges as an experienced educator.

Years in Education: 
Seven

Why did you choose to be an educator? 
I have always loved to teach. If I didn’t go into medicine, I would have been an elementary school teacher. As an educator, I see my job as not only imparting knowledge, but also inspiring curiosity and excitement for learning. I’ve enjoyed witnessing the development and growth in students as they progress through medical school and residency. 

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator? 
Seeing the “aha” moment in the learners. That moment of understanding is so exciting, and I am always grateful and humbled that I can play a role in that.  

What is your educational philosophy? 

My approach to education is focused around learner engagement and making the time that learners spend with me valuable. My teaching tends to be very interactive, goal-oriented, fast-paced and filled with humor and fun. 

Who or what inspires you as an educator? 
Every student and resident that I’ve taught, especially when they graduate and go on to become phenomenal physicians far superior to me. That inspires me to keep on teaching. 

What have your students taught you? 

I’ve learned that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” I used to get embarrassed and apologize for not knowing the answer to a question. Then one time a student asked me why I was sorry, and I realized that I shouldn’t be. In fact, not knowing is a good thing because it’s another opportunity to learn.  

What advice would you give to other educators? 
When 98% of the student evaluations are positive, don’t focus on the negative 2%. Read them and take away what is constructive to improve, but don’t perseverate and question your ability to teach (definitely easier said than done). 


What do you find most challenging as an educator? 
Not having enough time to teach and the many conflicting priorities for students and faculty. 

 
Jeff Fritz, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy - Regional Campuses
Years in Education: 
25 with this being my 4th year at MCW.

Why did you choose to be an educator?

As part of my graduate education I was required to instruct in various courses. Initially I was a little frustrated by the time it took to put together a good instructional session; time which I felt could have been better applied to my research efforts. However, as I worked with, and listened to, my learners I noticed that the rewards in assisting others in the learning process were personally more rewarding that getting the next grant or manuscript acceptance. Soon learners and mentors began to reinforce these rewards by noting my positive approach toward instruction and providing feedback, and my ability to contextualize material in a variety of formats that enhanced understanding. Soon I found myself in instructional settings more than I was in the lab and shortly after that I transitioned to educational settings that primarily placed my energies into instructional/educator roles.  

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator?
I feel the most rewarded when I have developed a level of trust with learners such that I can observe a learner develop confidence in themselves and begin to embrace their identity as a peer educator/learner.

What is your educational philosophy?
I’m a big fan of positivity, mastery and goal setting. I think if we create a learning environment that positively encourages learners to set and reach their own goals for mastery, we then reach a place where we become peer-learners/educators on a shared journey in the educational process of personal/professional growth and discovery.  

Who or what inspires you as an educator?
I had, and continue to have, many wonderful mentors that share(d) with me the process of being peer learners. They do/did an amazing job of eliminating hierarchy and bias from their instruction as well as challenged me to join them as peer learners on the shared journey of continuous discovery both personal growth and professional development. Their inclusivity, and ability to create a learning environment that was safe to challenge convention, provide robust feedback and allow the freedom for personal growth and curiosity is one I hope to share with those around me.

What have your students taught you?
The first, and likely most important, lesson I learned was to be authentic rather than correct. The second was the need to develop trust and safe learning environments where we could all grow and learn in the process. That level of authenticity can feel very vulnerable and be challenging to achieve but I believe it offers great potential in developing both avenues for content mastery/discovery and personal/professional development for learners and educators.

What advice would you give to other educators?
Be yourself and try to find ways to keep things simple and fun.

What do you find most challenging as an educator?
It’s an unintended consequence, but sometimes I think our well-intentioned efforts to best educate have the tendency to dehumanize learning environments and make education feel institutional and hierarchical. I’m not sure I have answers to that puzzle other than to push back and assess my efforts to explore if I have included bias, positional-power or related obstacles to learning in my instructional setting. Also, I still struggle a little with the identity of an educator, I feel like I’m more of learner that’s just a little further along on the continuous discovery journey and as such I’ve made a lot more mistakes from which to recover and learn. 
 
Teresa Patitucci, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy

Years in Education:
Years as a faculty teacher? 4

Why did you choose to be an educator?
Throughout my training, my favorite roles involved helping people understand something they found confusing. I always knew I wanted to be in a field where I could help people using human biology and it turned out I had a skill for transmitting complex information to another person in a way they could comprehend. I also always had an intense love for anatomy. The structure of our bodies is so beautiful! Once I realized I could roll helping people live healthier lives, training others, and anatomy into a career, it was a no-brainer!

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator?
I feel most rewarded when I help someone who needed it. Students can and should figure out a lot on their own, but everyone has concepts they need some extra help to understand. It’s rewarding to help guide a learner through those tough spots and watch the light go on when the concept clicks. On a larger scale, I get to help our students accomplish their goals of serving our communities through science and medicine, which I find immensely rewarding.

What is your educational philosophy?

I believe learning sessions should be warm, fun, and highly organized. I don’t expect learners to know everything when they get here. I try to organize content in a way that is intuitive to someone learning the information for the first time and illustrates the relationships between concepts. I include a framework of what may feel like basic information (i.e. “the big picture”) then build the content out from there. I encourage students not to shy away from asking questions. After all, if they already knew everything, they wouldn’t be in school! Finally, I don’t hide my enthusiasm for the subjects I teach, there’s no need to suck the joy out of learning – this stuff is amazing!

Who or what inspires you as an educator?
Going into this field I was inspired by educators I had along the way. I had some great teachers and mentors throughout my education and always paid close attention to what they did that allowed them to be so effective. In my current role, the learners inspire me most. Their enthusiasm and curiosity for the field in which they are training is contagious. I am reminded why I went into education any time a student gets excited about something they just experienced.    

What have your students taught you?
So many things! I love when a student asks a question I don’t know the answer to or about something I’ve never considered before. We get to figure it out together and both learn something new! I have also learned about the clinical realm from medical students after they finish their basic science work and are out on the wards. It’s particularly fun when a student tells me about an experience in clinic that relates to something they learned in class! They often describe procedures or treatments I didn’t know about as a non-clinician, which allows me to improve as an educator.

What advice would you give to other educators?
Two things: 1. Know your audience. Think about where that group of learners is in their training and pitch your information at an appropriate level of detail for the level they are at currently. Read the room to see if they are following along, maybe through practice questions during class. 2. Care about your students, empathize with them. Trust they are largely doing their best, but they may be stuck. They’re adults and ultimately responsible for themselves, but the role of an educator is to help them develop into the best version of themselves, which may include pointing them in the right direction when they’re lost.

What do you find most challenging as an educator?

I find it most challenging to strike a balance between offering support and encouraging independence. Everyone learns differently and has unique needs. It’s not always obvious when someone is struggling and even when it is clear someone is struggling, they may not want help from me. Figuring out when to intervene versus give someone space to figure things out on their own is tricky. A major skill that should be developed in students is the ability to monitor, motivate, and assess themselves, then reach out for help when needed.

 
Michael Lund, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics Gynecology

Years in Education:
Years as a faculty teacher? 19

Why did you choose to be an educator?
Sounds cliché, but I didn’t choose education – it chose me.  I had no plans to go into academic medicine during medical school or my first year or two of residency.  However, I found myself teaching medical students and junior residents all day every day and I really enjoyed it.  I changed my plans from private practice to academic practice here (I’ve been here my entire career) and have really enjoyed playing the role of doctor-teacher.  A good example of “don’t knock it till you try it”.

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator?
Easy – when a learner struggles with something, they receive feedback willingly and enthusiastically, and then show mastery or even improvement.  Watching someone succeed at caring for patients in the office or the operating room is fantastic (sometimes I’m more excited than they are) and provides my motivation to keep working here – we are making a huge difference in the future of medicine

What is your educational philosophy?
The best teachers are those who remember what it feels like to be the learner – we lose our empathy so quickly sometimes.  All our students and residents and other learners want is to be treated like partners by someone who remembers how scary or overwhelming the medical education journey is.  My goal is to provide highly experiential learning (let students “do stuff”) as quickly as possible to build their confidence and their enthusiasm

Who or what inspires you as an educator?
I am inspired by the ridiculously talented faculty physicians who have worked here in the past and work here now – we have an amazing collection of faculty who are really good at empathetic, experiential teaching.  I am equally inspired by the students who are excited about being physicians because they are anxious to care for their patients with character and dignity.  If I can help them get there, I am satisfied.

What have your students taught you?
Don’t forget where you started.  Don’t act like you’re more important than anyone else.  Don’t act like you know everything (you don’t).  One of the best things about working at MCW is that my students and residents regularly (and usually kindly) remind me of all of the things that I don’t know that I should know.

What advice would you give to other educators?
See the answers to my last questions.  In addition, the best teaching sessions often just cover one or two key concepts.  Use real-life examples.  Flashy doesn’t work nearly as well as understanding your learners.

What do you find most challenging as an educator?
I want to make sure that I am as up to date as I can be so that I don’t pass on outdated knowledge or skills.  That’s really challenging sometimes.  Keeping up with modern medicine, much less staying ahead of the curve, requires a great deal of discipline and enthusiasm.

Michael Frank, MD, Professor, Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine

Dr. Michael Frank shares his thoughts, teaching philosophy, inspiration, advice and challenges as an experience educator.

Years in Education:   
All my life, really, isn’t that true?  But if you mean as a faculty member, 25 years (including time elsewhere before coming to MCW).

Why did you choose to be an educator?
I have always been interested in teaching, including volunteering as a tutor in high school, college, and medical school.  I thought about being a teacher before I decided to go to medical school.  While in medical school, even before I chose a specialty, I knew I would stay in academic medicine.  I think, like most things we end up dedicating a lot of time to, I really enjoyed it and found out I was good at it.

When do you feel most rewarded as an educator?
When I see a learner get it—the “aha” moment.  When I see them work through something to get to the right answer.  When they ask me a question that shows insight into the topic.

What is your educational philosophy?
I believe in active learning and involving the learner.  I don’t believe in forcing memorization of things that can be easily looked up.  I believe being able to integrate data into appropriate clinical reasoning is far more important and in an educational environment where we all learn together.

Who or what inspires you as an educator?
Learners—namely those who enjoy learning, who find fascination in new things and satisfaction in wanting to truly understand something, who care more about the process than the grade.  As for teachers, I’ve always been amazed by those who can take something complex and focus it and make it more straightforward for me to understand.

What have your students taught you?
Lots!  And I don’t just mean things that they educated me on or things we learned together having to look up something to answer a question.  The most important thing they remind me of is to appreciate the joy in medicine and that we are lucky to be doing what we do every day.  

What advice would you give to other educators?
Make sure it is fun for both of you - you should be having fun teaching just like they should be having fun learning.  If not, look again at what you’re doing and why.  Make sure you know your audience—what level they are at and where you want to take them, what is important for them to really know and be able to do.
    
What do you find most challenging as an educator?
I’ll admit I find it disheartening to have disinterested learners, those who can’t find pleasure in learning something for the sake of learning, those who are only interested in what will be on the test and what their grade should be, what they “have” to do.  But that’s a bad challenge, and challenge can also be a good thing.  To me, a good challenge is to have to keep things fresh.  If I give the same teaching session every other month to the students, how do I keep it interesting and relevant (as much to me so I continue to enjoy it, as to them so they see the value of it)?  That’s a good challenge.  

 

Voices in Education

We’ve created this video series to share best practices from experienced faculty who contribute their teaching philosophies, engagement strategies, advice and inspiration in short video format. Enjoy!

David Brousseau, MD, MS

Professor and Chief
Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Highlights include:
  • Students can be disengaged when they don’t understand the applicability of information
  • Audience response system questions can bring about awareness and reflection
  • Inspiration can come from people who are actively trying to make something better
  • Students help to challenge your assumptions on a given topic
  • Teaching information becomes relevant when you ensure students can apply it outside of the classroom

Beth Krippendorf, PhD

Professor
Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy

Highlights include:
  • Teaching, like medicine, is a service profession
  • Students respond to enthusiasm and organization
  • Teachers should ask themselves what they want the students to know/do and hoe they want to guide the students toward achievement of those goals
  • Student feedback inspires improvement and can motivate teachers to discover better ways to teach

Karen MacKinnon, RPh

Assistant Professor
School of Pharmacy

Highlights include:
  • Audience questions allow teachers to spark additional conversation and aids them in clarifying concepts
  • Hands-on learning is important in translating knowledge from a lecture into applicable skills for patient care
  • Allow students to ask questions - it's okay of the teacher doesn't always have the answers

Hershel Raff, PhD

Professor
Medicine, Surgery and Physiology

Highlights include:
  • The biggest mistakes teachers can make are being unclear and forgetting the big picture
  • Audience response questions can be extremely helpful in gauging student understanding and redirecting teaching efforts
  • There is nothing more beautiful than a great lecture, and nothing deadlier than a bad one

James Sebastian, MD

Professor
Department of Medicine

Highlights include:
  • The teacher's role is to coach and instill fundamental knowledge and skills
  • It must be okay for students to make mistakes as they learn
  • If you can draw it and you can teach it, then you understand it
  • It's okay for a student to see a teacher struggle with a topic outside their expertise

Ryan Spellecy, PhD

Professor
Bioethics, Institute for Health and Equity

Highlights include:
  • Students are future colleagues; teaching prepares them for that role
  • You can better engage students by mixing up your teaching methodologies If you start with a simple question that engages students, that goes a long way toward getting and keeping students involved in the session
  • Audience response questions provide students with an anonymity that helps teachers broach sensitive topics and elicit conversation in the classroom