"In medical training, education and teaching is built into the process, almost more so than in any other profession. It's assumed you're going to be teaching the people who are immediately behind you," Kelley Skeff, MD, PhD, told me. The expectations ratchet up if you become a medical school professor. "There's something about being blessed as a teacher that says you're going to have capabilities beyond other humans," said Skeff. "And the fact is, you don't."
Enter the Stanford Faculty Development Center for Medical Teachers, where Skeff, a professor of medicine, and his colleague Georgette Stratos, PhD, a senior research scholar in medicine, have been helping medical teachers improve their craft for 30 years. Each fall, they bring medical school faculty to campus for a month, preparing them to lead a series of seven seminars in clinical teaching when they return to their home institutions. Skeff and Stratos also conduct shorter workshops for medical teachers worldwide.
I can say without hyperbole that it changed my life. It revolutionized the way I viewed my clinical teaching and the clinical teaching of others, mainly in having a structured, evidence-based approach to teaching, much as we do for other aspects of clinical medicine.
Ultimately, said Sharpe, the dissemination model that the Faculty Development Center uses — training facilitators who train facilitators who train facilitators — translates into better patient care for thousands:
If I work with 20 interns, and in each encounter with a patient there's a way they say a word or a way they examine the heart, I've now touched as many as 100,000 patients in my teaching. If five of them teach their interns the same thing, then there are 500,000 I’ve touched in some small way.
And that, said Skeff, "is why medical teachers teach."
Previously: What med students learn when their teachers disagree, Dear Future Self, this is the type of resident you should be, Teaching in medical school: Establishing quality standards and Stanford Medicine's Lloyd Minor on re-conceiving medical education
Photo of Stratos and Skeff by Norbert von der Groeben