October 08, 2020

Medical School faculty member’s unique focus on medical education earns honor

How one researcher’s Fulbright Scholar award will impact future work at Michigan Medicine

John Burkhardt, M.D., Ph.D.

Medical research can take many forms. For John Burkhardt, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine and learning health sciences at Michigan Medicine, it means focusing on a rare area of study: medical education.

“My research focuses on the health education process and its outcome on society,” Burkhardt says.

His niche area of focus recently earned him a prestigious grant: a 2021 Fulbright U.S. Scholar award.

According to the Fulbright website, “the Fulbright Scholar program was started by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright in 1945 and is the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program in the world. It has been supported for more than half a century by the American people through an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress and by the people of partner nations. The program selects scholar awardees in the fields of education, culture and science, and actively seeks out individuals of achievement and potential who represent the full diversity of their respective societies.”

“The University of Michigan is in the top 10 institutions for having the most students and faculty Fulbright Scholar awardees,” Burkhardt says. “I’m incredibly honored to be chosen, as Fulbright alumni include Nobel Prize laureates, Pulitzer Prize recipients and heads of government.”

The Michigan Health Lab sat down with Dr. Burkhardt to hear more about his work and the scholar program.

You received the Fulbright Scholar award based on your research in medical education. Can you explain a bit more about your work?

Burkhardt: A 10,000 feet view of my work is that my research looks at medical education policy, such as selection processes, curriculum, assessment and evaluation. I also focus on barriers to diversity in medical education and specialties, managing medical school enrollment to get a diverse class, and more.

I try to teach our U-M Medical School students that a diverse workforce influences patient outcomes and our ability to provide the best care for patients. Historically, limitations in the availability and connectivity of learner and patient data has made this relationship hard to directly demonstrate. Our increasingly digital world is removing that barrier. I’m trying to perform research that quantitatively defines that link, and showcases how diversity in the physicians we train can impact patient care.