September 09, 2016

Jennifer Stojan, MD, MHPE: Training for change

Commitment to curriculum development runs deep

In 2012, a University of Michigan faculty member won a grant to start a Master of Health Professions Education program as part of a joint effort between our campus and Maharashtra University in India. In December 2015, Jennifer Stojan, MD, MHPE, became its first-ever graduate.

Dr. Stojan is an assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics, and the director of our doctoring course—one of several innovative longitudinal components in the evolving MD curriculum.

Here she took a moment to answer nine questions about the doctoring course and why she chose to return to school to become a better educator.

You decided to pursue a Masters in Education for Health Professionals — the first ever at the University of Michigan. Why did this appeal to you?

As a physician, I understand the importance of being a lifelong learner. I have always loved medical education. I wanted to refine my skills and understand the theory behind curriculum design, teaching strategies and assessment. The best way for me to do this was to go back to school and get formal instruction.

Why is it important to have a distinction in education for health professionals?

I think it was essential for me to have this training to be able to function in my new role as the director of the doctoring course. My training really helped me get a grasp on curriculum design and assessment strategies.

Why do you like about being at the University of Michigan?

More than anything I love the people. I could not ask for a better group of faculty, students or administration to be surrounded by. I am inspired by and learn from the people that surround me every day.

In what capacity do you interact with medical students?

I am the director of the doctoring course, which is a four-year longitudinal experience that teaches students history taking skills, communication skills, physical exam skills, clinical reasoning, ethics, health disparities, and professionalism. This is done in a small group format with two instructors leading a group of 10-11 students on a weekly basis.

What is the objective of the doctoring course?

Students will master their clinical skills and get a firm grasp on socio-behavioral topics in medicine. Our job is to prepare them to be the best doctors that they can be upon graduation. We also plan to incorporate near-peer teachers so that upper classman can learn to teach/mentor lower classman.

How do you see students getting the most out of their doctoring course experience?

Keys to success would include coming prepared to class and practicing the physical exam. Another key to success would be having a willingness to share your views on socio-behavioral topics and be engaged with the conversation in the small group sessions.

What are the benefits of staying with the same group of students and faculty for all four years of training?

You cannot master clinical skills and gain a complete understanding of socio-behavioral topics in just one or two years. We purposefully made this course longitudinal to continuously reinforce clinical skills and refine them. We also take a deeper dive into socio-behavioral topics in medicine after the students have had some clinical exposure on the wards. Our hope is that this longitudinal experience provides them a lasting connection with their faculty in a coaching/mentoring/advising role and with their classmates.

What are your most memorable moments from this year’s doctoring course?

I really loved seeing the students learn the physical exams in the clinical skills space with each other. It was exciting to witness their learning and development of their clinical skills as one of their first steps to becoming doctors.

It was also exciting then to later see the students in their white coats perform their end-of-year mock histories and physicals on standardized patients. They did such a great job in taking histories, communicating with the “patients” and doing physical exams.

What is your advice to prospective University of Michigan Medical School students?

Be careful — you will fall in love with this place and want to stay here forever like I did.