Building a Better Doctor
| USF News
Kirk Chassey left the room exhilarated. Energized.
After sitting through nearly half a dozen medical school interviews answering the same questions over and over, this one stood out.
"They picked and they probed, poking deep into moments of my life. They peeled back my answers like an onion, getting way past the surface," he says. "I was thrilled. They weren't just getting a snapshot of my life — they were getting a photo album."
Chassey joins a group of 19 students enrolled in the inaugural class of SELECT, an innovative program designed to educate physician leaders of the future.
Scholarly Excellence. Leadership Experiences. Collaborative Training. This is SELECT.
Where traditional medical education programs choose students primarily on academic credentials, the SELECT program adds an in-depth interview process to assess their emotional intelligence and related key characteristics such as collaboration, adaptability and emotional self-control.
Program administrators say these characteristics are essential to becoming empathetic, passionate physician leaders. They are the catalysts for change in the nation's health care system.
Crossing State Lines
The USF Health College of Medicine is committed to producing compassionate, communicative physicians who are top-notch leaders. The new program builds on those strengths.
SELECT pairs the USF Health College of Medicine (USF) with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) in Pennsylvania. The USF/LVHN partnership, created in March 2009, is crossing state boundaries to prepare physician leaders committed to accelerating change in health care. Change considered long overdue.
Students in the program spend their first two years studying at USF Health in Tampa, then matriculate to Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) in Allentown, Pa. for two years of clinical education. From day one, each student is assigned two faculty mentors — one from USF and one from LVHN — for coaching and professional development throughout the duration of the four-year program. Between years one and two, students will complete a project with a leader of their choosing, such as a physician entrepreneur, the state's surgeon general or a health network chief medical officer, to further hone their critical thinking and leadership skills.
It's a program USF Health and LVHN leaders believe could have huge implications for the future of medical education.
"With SELECT, we intend to change the DNA of health care, one physician leader at a time," says Stephen Klasko, M.D., dean of the USF College of Medicine and CEO of USF Health.
Transforming Medical Education
For more than 10 years, Dr. Klasko has wrestled with questions about the way medical students are selected and educated. "Why do physicians resist change rather than lead transformation?" he opined in a recent editorial for the St. Petersburg Times.
The answer is simple, he says. "After four years of medical school, and three to seven years of graduate medical education, the young physician has joined a cult centered around four biases — competitive, autonomous, hierarchical and non-creative." He points to the fact that in 2011, medical school students are still selected based on their science GPA, ability to memorize organic chemistry formulas and scores on the MCAT. "Yet somehow," he says, "we are amazed that doctors are not more empathetic, communicative and creative."
SELECT aims to change all that with its focus on student selection, emotional intelligence and leadership development.
Unique Selection Process
USF Health worked with the Teleos Leadership Institute to use an assessment for prospective students that probes emotional intelligence. A standard in the business world for the last several years, the emotional intelligence assessment has rarely been employed in academic medicine.
Teleos, founded by two best-selling authors and scholars from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, focuses on improving how leaders can improve organizational outcomes through emotionally resonant leadership.
Students completing SELECT's behavioral event interview were asked to recall certain milestone events in their lives in detail to reveal how they responded to and what they learned from each situation.
"This is a way to get underneath people's plug-and-play responses," says Suzanne Rotondo, executive director of the Teleos Leadership Institute. "You get to such depth, such detail, that people can't fake it. For emerging leaders, this is a way to get under the surface and see how someone's mind and heart works."
And a way to identify candidates who have the necessary traits to effect positive change in health care policy and health care settings. Candidates like Kanchi Batra.
Training Future Physician Leaders
Batra, 23, is a Northwestern University biology graduate. Her resume includes working as a biology teaching assistant and performing clinical research at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, three executive leadership positions in Northwesterns's Greek community and a 10-year track record of volunteering in senior citizen communities.
"SELECT offered an opportunity for me to fine-tune my leadership, decision-making and communication skills while getting a great medical education," she says. "Having a mentor really spoke to me; a constant mentor is important to professional and personal growth."
Recent surveys show that 60 percent of physicians in practice three years or less say they didn't learn what they most needed in practice — how to creatively embrace change, collaboratively negotiate or effectively communicate.
"Medical education for the last 100 years has emphasized science, as it should," says Alicia Monroe, M.D., vice dean of educational affairs for the USF College of Medicine. "And as science has escalated, we have increased our emphasis on science, but we haven't had the same level of emphasis on areas like communication, patient-centered care and teamwork."
A Collaborative, Strategic Partnership
Dr. Monroe collaboratively led the steering committee comprised of USF and LVHN faculty who were charged with developing a new medical education program focused on innovation, leadership and quality — a program that paired USF with a clinical partner that shared the university's enthusiasm for accelerating innovation.
USF found that partner in LVHN, a top community academic center that has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report for 16 consecutive years as one of America's Best Hospitals.
As he made his way to Tampa, Chassey says he couldn't help wonder, "How does a hospital in Allentown (some 1,100 miles away), match up with a school in South Florida?" It didn't take long for him to make the connection.
"USF is so student-centered. Lehigh Valley is the exact same way about patients. They've taken the time to break down, analyze and improve patient-centered care," he says. "USF's student-centered curriculum and Lehigh Valley's patient-centered care spoke volumes to me."
Chassey, 28, a technical partner in LVHN Cedar Crest's emergency department, says teamwork at the hospital is second to none. "Nurses, doctors, administrators, support staff and technical partners all work together."
The way it should be, according to Dr. Monroe.
"The health care environment is changing," she says. "There is less focus on individuals and more focus on working in teams and systems and how to be an effective leader and member of a health care system."
J. Alan Otsuki, M.D., a recognized leader in medical education, was chosen in February to lead SELECT. Dr. Otsuki is the founding associate dean of educational affairs for the USF College of Medicine at the LVHN campus and chief of the Division of Education at LVHN. Otsuki was associate dean for medical education and student affairs and associate professor of emergency medicine at Emory University School of Medicine In Atlanta, Ga.
He calls SELECT a "robust, dynamic, forward-thinking medical training program."
A program whose time has come.
"Health care today needs to be viewed in the context of many drivers — the explosion of medical knowledge, patient access to information, technology advances, financial and outcomes accountability, and an incredibly complex health care delivery system," he says. "Medical students need an understanding of complex health care systems and how health care policy is developed and implemented."
All that content is built into the SELECT program's curriculum which places significant emphasis on leadership development, consisting of three blocks over four years. In year one, emotional intelligence and leadership introduces key concepts and helps students attain individual leadership competencies; year two prepares students to work in teams; and years three and four prepare students to apply leadership and health systems competencies in professional and interprofessional settings.
It's a curriculum and a program that Chassey believes will set new precedents and prepare students to be the best possible doctors.
"They want us to be the ones to push the envelope in patient-centered care. They want us to let our minds run wild; to try things and see if they work," he says. "They really want us, as students, to be at the forefront of health care. I think that's the greatest opportunity I've ever heard of from a medical school."