Branch advisors offer specialty support and guidance in last years of medical school
Radiologist Katherine “Kate” Klein loves solving jigsaw puzzles, from sorting through scattered pieces to placing the final piece. When charged with co-directing a curriculum revision of the last two years of our MD program, she was ready for the challenge. Here, Dr. Klein answers seven questions about her dual director roles in the Branches.
I've been a part of the Branches curriculum since 2014 when Dr. Englesbe asked me to be the director of the Diagnostics and Therapeutics Branch. In radiology, we don't have a required clerkship, so my previous exposure to the curriculum was limited. That meant I had to learn the curriculum from ground zero. There was a lot of new material that was being created to organize the students' schedule, manage the advisors and set timelines for Branch Directors. I organized all this material and created helpful handbooks, checklists and calendars for the students, advisors and directors. As it turned out, the more I did, the more I enjoyed it, and then I was asked to be associate director of the Branches.
In this role, my primary goal is recruiting Branch advisors, overseeing advisor orientations, creating materials like checklists and the advisor training program, and hosting a monthly advisor-faculty development meeting.
As the director of the Diagnostics and Therapeutic Technologies Branch, my mission is to cultivate community within the Branch and to provide the best orientation and resources I can for not only students but also their advisors. I want to help our students be the best doctors to contribute to the health and well being of society.
At the time I was asked, I was very involved in the Radiology Interest Group. Taking the positions expanded my roles with students other than those interested in Radiology. Our students are very impressive. It is a joy to work with them toward their goals.
Being involved in creating a robust advisor program resonated with me in particular because when I was a student in medical school, we were offered few opportunities to find or work with mentors. That’s not the case here in the Branches where we make every effort to match each student with a faculty mentor. Like the team-based care we provide for patients, we offer a team-based approach for students. Not only do they have Branch advisors, earlier on in the program they have faculty coaches, Doctoring faculty, career counselors--a whole team that advocates for them. The idea that I could be an advocate for more students in this role during a critical time in their education was very appealing.
What we envision is that students who are more interested in radiology, pathology, maybe anesthesiology, dermatology, emergency medicine or some other innovative pathway, would choose this Branch. Our Branch actively promotes a team-based science approach. When you start caring for patients, you are part of a team. You are not working alone.
Also, we have an outstanding group of advisors who are very engaged and share the same qualities and values which shows our compassion for our students. We provide structure for them while promoting flexibility and innovation.
All I can think of are the students. The smiles on their faces when we talk about their future careers, and the confidence that they've chosen the right pathway for them. They are so grateful for any help. A thank you from a student is the most incredible feeling in the world. Whether I help them a little or a lot, working with them is my favorite part of the job.
I am also a logistics person, and there have been a number of logistical challenges with all of these changes and being able to work through them and figuring it all out with my team has been very enjoyable as well. The question we are all trying to answer is: How do we make this work so that it maximizes every student's experience?
I'm ready for the full rollout. With the pilot, we have had a limited number of students who volunteered to be in the Branches, so it will be exhilarating when a whole class of 170 students embarks on the Branches. I can't wait until we are in a steady state just to see how all of the moving pieces work together.
We are also going to introduce an ultrasound curriculum that will be specific to our Branch. Ideally, we want our Branch students to feel comfortable enough with ultrasound to teach junior students.
These students are amazing. They are so inspiring with all of the things that they accomplish throughout med school. It is an honor to be a part of their education and their path to being excellent health care providers and contributors to our medical community. They are going to be our physicians one day so it is important we support them now to maximize their learning and experiences.
I also genuinely love our Branch advisor program. When we get together for office hours, it's not just advisors from radiology—but advisors from surgery, anesthesiology, urology, family medicine, pediatrics, etc. who are all in the same room to answer the same question: how do we maximize our student experience? Somebody said it's a "de-siloization" of education. It's also an opportunity for faculty who haven't been involved with our curriculum to get involved. We want faculty from across all specialties to be an advisor.
The Scientific Trunk and Clinical Trunk are highly structured. While there is “structure” in the Branch requirements, there is a lot of flexibility for you to create your impact on the health and wellness of society, and faculty are here to support you every step of the way. So think about your ultimate dream and know that we will help you to achieve it. There are four different Branches and several unique programs offered in the branches. We have an Impact program, longitudinal clinic experiences and even a basic science curriculum to bring science back to the bedside.