Med Students Partner with Architects to Benefit Patients


The Medical Design Program’s teaching team: (l-r) Program Manager Alex Gregor; Co-director Matt Trowbridge, MD, MPH; and Co-director David Chen, MBA

Last year, I shared with you the design-thinking program for first-year medical students created by Matthew Trowbridge, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Public Health Sciences; David Chen, MBA, Coulter Program Director, Department of Biomedical Engineering; Erik Hewlett, MD, recently retired from his role as Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases and International Health; and Program Manager Alex Gregor of the Department of Emergency Medicine. This academic year, the third edition of the course has been a resounding success.

Design-thinking is a creative problem-solving tool, a systematic way of looking at complex challenges, a mindset that teaches how to ask the right questions to tackle the real problem. This program is teaching first-year medical students how to use design thinking to be more effective clinicians and help innovate the next era of patient-centered clinical care.

A core tenet of design-thinking is serving the person for whom you’re designing. Design-thinking does this through a relentless emphasis on developing empathy for the intended user of a new product, service, or other type of innovation. The UVA Medical Design programs adapts these approaches for medical education giving the students structured instruction on interviewing and problem-solving to use as future physicians, whether it is part of their clinical care, while on research teams, or in a leadership role.

The Exercise: Empathizing with Visually Impaired People to Design Healthier Communities
For one of their recent workshops with students, Trowbridge, Chen, and Gregor wanted students to think about empathizing with patients who have different lived experiences than their own. But it had to be more than merely talking about it. How does one not only empathize deeply with a patient, but take action based on that empathy to serve the patient?

They created an exercise that instructed students to walk a path from the Battle Building to the UVA Eye Clinic, and asked them to navigate as if they lost their sight. They were to experience what it was like, the pros and cons of the built environment — the sidewalks, the roads, the signage, the sounds — anything that might help or hinder the progress of a person with visual impairment.

First-year medical students Sean Haughey and Sabrina Swoger partnered to do their fieldwork before the workshop. Describing what motivated him to learn about design thinking and participate in the course, Haughey said he thought, “‘I don’t want to be a doctor who’s resistant to innovation,’ and a great way to start is, in the first year of medical school, going out and joining a group that is looking to innovate as doctors.” Describing the empathy exercise for this workshop, Swoger added, “It is so important to actually experience it … because I have that very visceral sense of emotion tied to it, now I feel so much more motivated to actually solve it. I think that’s key, and I think that’s what we want to identify as doctors and as design thinkers.”

Sabrina Swoger, SMD21, and classmates navigated to UVA clinics while simulating blindness to empathize with visually impaired patients and think about how we might make our hospital — and city — more accessible for patients.

Swoger, Haughey, and the other students in the course captured their findings from this fieldwork, shared that data with designers at Charlottesville-based architecture firm VMDO, and worked with the firm at its downtown studio to brainstorm potential solutions to improve the actual streetscape. It was a wonderful opportunity to show how medical professionals and designers can collaborate to help create healthier and more inclusive communities.

The medical students’ proposals were varied and creative, and ultimately they were all empathetic and aimed to helping our patients in an area where medicine alone was not the answer.

One example that came out of this exercise was the recommendation to install dog-bone-shaped beacons around Grounds and train seeing-eye dogs to locate these beacons. The beacon would release a treat for the dog while providing critical navigational information to the visually impaired person. Additionally, the beacon would recognize who is interacting with it and, perhaps, include personalized information about wayfinding. Some of this may be “magical thinking,” but that kind of ideation is encouraged in the early stages of the iterative design-thinking process, so long as solutions are rooted in a deep understanding of the user’s needs. As a blind person, would it be helpful not just to be able to safely cross the street, but to be told that you are, indeed, on the correct path and that your physician has been notified you’re running a few minutes late and that they are waiting for your arrival? Sounds futuristic, but most certainly a future I’d like to see come to fruition.

An important element of design-thinking is for students not to constrain their initial brainstorming with the practical details of implementation — those are sorted out in later stages of the innovation process — but to think broadly about different ways to meet latent needs that are not being addressed by the status quo. One of the most powerful roles a physician has is to help patients articulate their needs and then work with professionals from diverse fields — such as other clinicians, technologists, designers, architects, engineers, scientists, and others — to create multi-talented project teams with the know-how to address patients’ needs holistically.

SMD21 students Dan Lewis, Aamir Javaid, Deson Haynie, and Oom Pattarabanjird collaborate with architects Rob Winstead and Lauren Shirley of VMDO to map the physical and emotional journey of navigating to UVA while visually impaired, and to design radical new ways to improve that experience.

Allowing Scientists to Dream
We know that the grand challenges of healthcare are changing fundamentally and that the big problems tend to be systems problems. No single discipline can hope to tackle them alone. Design thinking helps our medical students address these challenges. The VMDO workshop showed them how a physician can dream big and partner with other disciplines to create better built environments and healthcare systems for patients.

The goal here is not to turn medical students into architects, but to be world-class collaborators with other skilled professionals. And it’s working. Previous classes have reported back that they are using their design-thinking skills in summer projects with the UVA-Guatemala Initiative, in Ghana with support from the Center for Global Health, with the Medical Student Summer Research Program at UVA, and on other projects. Students have also noted that training in design thinking has increased creativity in their process for developing basic-science hypotheses. One student combined design thinking and a maker mentality in collaboration with an orthopedic faculty member to 3D print a new type of teaching model, based on imaging of patient’s joints, for orthopedists to learn a procedure that is not frequently performed.

Trowbridge, Chen, and Gregor are working on scaling up the class to provide access to more students. To that end, I am happy to share that the design-thinking program recently received a second funding award from the School of Medicine Curriculum Committee as part of its Education Fellowship program for a new initiative to develop online workshop modules that will extend access of design thinking learning opportunities, such as the one with VMDO, to a broader range of UVA students.

Congratulations to Matt, David, and Alex for their hard work on bringing this cutting-edge pedagogy to our school, and to our students, who are the real drivers of its success. Thanks as well to Rob Winstead and his team of world-class architects at VMDO for partnering with UVA to offer such a great learning opportunity to our students.

R.J. Canterbury, MD, MS, DLFAPA
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Education

iCan. Can You?

A few months ago, we discussed the development of VMED, an integrated learning-, curriculum-, and student-management system. The development team is still working on the first iteration of the product, which we hope to have available in the summer to test.

Related to VMED is the Interactive Clinical Assessment Navigator (iCan), a tool through which we can assess entrustable professional activities (EPA). EPAs cover basic skills a physician should have, such as taking a patient history, documenting an encounter, performing basic procedures, collaborating as part of an interprofessional team, and interpreting lab values. In terms of use, we have seen dramatic expansion of iCan’s use in the past few months. It was first implemented in part of the clerkship class, then moved to all of SMD19, and is now also being used by SMD20. By the fall, SMD21 and SMD22 will be using it as well. It’s exciting to see a product we developed being implemented so widely and quickly.

But this is about more than a new tool and who is using it. This is about using the lean methodology and continuous process improvement to make our systems better. Better for faculty and better for students. It’s about asking, “Is this the best way to assess our students’ clinical performance?” If it’s not, we stop the process and collaborate to find a solution. The key word here is “continuous.” There’s no finish line in our improvement journey.

iCan is a part of the larger VMED system and, thus far, has been well received. The team is continuing to meet with system leaders, clerkship directors and coordinators, faculty, and staff to discuss what to expect from iCan and to understand how it will help facilitate preparation for the next academic year.

I offer my thanks to Maryellen Gusic, MD, who has been a champion for EPAs and iCan, and is one of the reasons its expansion across the cohorts of students is going so well. For more information on VMED — a timeline, progress dashboard, and other documentation — visit the website here. If you have questions, please contact Kim Holman. Keep an eye on the Dean’s Office Blog in June for the next VMED update.

R.J. Canterbury, MD
Senior Associate Dean for Education
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor

Making Virginia Medicine Better: (l-r) Dr. Megan Bray, Dr. Mary Kate Worden, Kim Holman, Dr. Maryellen Gusic, Robert Pastor, Dr. Randolph Canterbury, and Mark Moody.

Come Celebrate Medical Education!


Many medical schools around the country celebrate education by holding a Medical Education Day. Here at UVA, a single day cannot do it justice. As such, every year we have a full week dedicated to medical education. This year, Medical Education Week will run from March 12-16.

We have many educators at the School of Medicine who work tirelessly all year long to accomplish the goals of our educational mission. Medical Education Week is a great opportunity to put a spotlight on the work our faculty, residents, and students do to innovate in medical education.

The week is co-sponsored with the Brodie Medical Education Fund, which annually supports an internationally known speaker in medical education. This year we welcome Dr. Elizabeth Gaufberg from Harvard Medical School to discuss “assumptions we bring to learning and practice.”

Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect this year:

March 12 – 16: Poster Session
Posters will be on display outside the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library.

March 13: Medical Education Research Presentations
Noon – 1 p.m. | G1/G2 Pinn Hall Conference Center
Lunch will be available; register here.

  • Noon – 12:30 p.m.: Processed EEG indices correlate with NASA-TLX Measurements of Cognitive Load by Drs. John Kwock, Ali Kazemi, Noah Schenkman, and Keith Littlewood (presenter)
  • 12:30-1  p.m.: Does wisdom protect against depersonalization among medical students? by Drs. John Schorling, Peggy Plews-Ogan, Rachel Kon, Tabor Flickinger (presenters), and Justine Owens

March 14 | The Brodie Medical Education Lecture/Medical Grand Rounds/Medical Center Hour
Noon – 1 p.m. | Pinn Hall Conference Center Auditorium
What We See, What We Feel, What We Say — Exploring Assumptions We Bring to Learning and Practice | Presented by Elizabeth H. Gaufberg, MD, MPH, Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge MA; and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation

March 14 | Medical Education Week Reception
5 p.m. – 7 p.m. | Claude Moore Health Sciences Library (2nd floor)
Poster presentations (presenters available from 5-6 p.m.); remarks by Dean David Wilkes and Dr. Gaufberg at 6 p.m.

March 15 | Medical Education Research Presentations
Noon – 1 p.m. | G1/G2 Pinn Hall Conference Center
Lunch will be available; register here.

  • Noon – 12:30 p.m.: Learning curves for robotic surgery fundamentals among novices, by Drs. Yinin Hu, Helen Kim (presenter), Philip Smith, Peter Hallowell, Leigh Cantrell, Noah Schenkman, Sara Rasmussen
  • 12:30 – 1 p.m.: Vessel Ligation Fundamentals: A Comparison of Technical Evaluations by Crowdsourced Nonclinical Personnel and Surgical Faculty, by Drs. Yinin Hu (presenter), Helen Kim, Bo Jiang, Anneke Schroen, Philip Smith, Sara Rasmussen

Thank you to the Brodie committee, the Academy of Distinguished Educators, and all of our faculty, residents, and students who contribute to making this such a successful event.

R.J. Canterbury, MD
Senior Associate Dean for Education
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor

Visiting Student Program Enjoys Continued Success

The 2016/2017 Visiting Student cohort presenting at the Annual Visiting Student Symposium.

Did you know that under the Visiting Student Program approximately 25 Polish and other Eastern European graduate students come to the University of Virginia every year to work in our labs? Like many of the great things at the University, the program started with a single idea and, over time, has become something remarkable.

This program started nearly two decades ago when Zygmunt Derewenda, PhD, Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics and Visiting Student Program Director, conferred with a Polish colleague about sending some students across the Atlantic. We know that excellent students can be found everywhere. Sometimes the opportunity just has to present itself. Or, in this case, the opportunity needed to be created. In the first year of the program, a single student came to Charlottesville. More followed. And then even more. Soon, Zygmunt’s colleagues here in the School of Medicine were asking if they, too, could have Polish students work in their labs. The program has since expanded to other countries, most recently admitting students from the Czech Republic and Brazil. Eighteen years later, this program is now an international success.

Since its inception, the program has brought 172 students to UVA and has expanded within the School to all basic science and clinical departments and even across Grounds. The Visiting Student Program fills a real need. The commitment for principal investigators is only one year and this cohort of students arrives incredibly well-trained, experienced, and largely independent, having spent time in labs throughout Europe. While here, they become part of our research and education teams, attend seminars, and work on dedicated projects in the lab. Their work culminates in a one-day symposium where they present their work. In many cases, these students return home to defend their master’s degree and either go on to PhD programs — both here and across the country — or dive into other research ventures. All because of their experience at UVA.

The Visiting Student Program has grown in other ways, too. We now work with three other institutions to place students: University of Chicago, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. The administration of the program in Poland was recently taken over by the Fulbright Commission, which will obtain additional support for students from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education. It is our hope that this will attract the very best candidates and that we’ll see a record number of applications in 2018.

While it is amazingly gratifying to see these students help our labs push forward on important research projects, it is equally as wonderful to see them welcomed into our community.

Thank you to all the faculty and staff for their hard work in coordinating, recruiting, and funding this program. It would not be successful without Zygmunt, Dr. Phil Trella, Assistant Vice President for Graduate Studies; Dr. Amy Bouton, Associate Dean for Graduate and Medical Scientist Programs; the International Studies Office; Dr. Wladek Minor, Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics; Carrie Walker, Graduate Program Administrator; and, of course, the many faculty members who provide mentoring for these visiting students.

Please note: Recruitment is ongoing. This year’s interviews will be held in March. If you are interested, please send a project description to Zygmunt at

R.J. Canterbury, MD, MS, DLFAPA
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Education

Margaret A. Shupnik, PhD
Gerald D. Aurbach Professor of Endocrinology
Professor of Medicine
Senior Associate Dean for Research

Highlights: January MAC Meeting

Opening Comments from the Dean
David S. Wilkes, MD

  • Budget Construction
    • As the budget season gets underway, we will all have to consider the significant implications of the recent tax bill. We expect immediate restrictions that will be ongoing. Just two examples (changes in 340B reimbursements and the loss of automatic inpatient status for Medicare total knee replacements) result in an annual decrease of $14 million. We anticipate an additional annual decrease of $10 million due to the impact of the repeal of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.
    • These reductions will hit the Medical Center’s bottom line and, clearly, will influence what it is able to pass through to the School of Medicine.
    • Although we must plan for financial restrictions, we must not compromise on excellence.
    • We must prioritize and focus on what is strategic and necessary, and we must determine what we will not do.
  • DAR Feedback
    • Several chairs noted that the DAR does not provide a mechanism for faculty to offer feedback on the chair’s performance.
    • The 2015 Faculty Forward Survey had robust data (due to high faculty participation) to share with the chairs. The survey will be administered again in the fall of 2018, and, as in 2015, it will be helpful if the chairs encourage their faculty to participate.
    • In the fall of 2019, we will conduct a 360 feedback survey that focuses exclusively on the chair.
    • Thank you to those who provided feedback on the DAR process.

February Medical Alumni Gathering
Anne Watkins

  • The Medical Alumni Association’s winter retreat will be held February 16-17 at the Lansdowne Resort and Spa in Leesburg.
  • Now that the graduate degrees have moved to the School of Medicine, the MAA is actively interacting with our graduate students. The retreat will feature a Friday evening poster session that will feature the work of about 40 graduate and medical students.
  • All faculty and students are invited to attend.
  • org/event/2018-Winter-Retreat/

New Business

  • Dr. Nataro asked about unexplained variances between RVUs and collections. Susan Rumsey will bring administrators together to discuss this further.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in the BIMS Classroom.

Highlights: December MAC Meeting

Opening Comments from the Dean
David S. Wilkes, MD

  • Implications of HR 1, Tax Cut and Jobs Act, on Graduate Student Stipends
    • Negative impact upon our students, UVA, and nation
      • College will be less affordable
      • Discourages participation in higher education
      • Discourages employer investment in employee learning
      • Decreases US competitiveness
      • Brightest minds will go outside of the US to advance
    • Elimination of Section 117(d) provisions
      • Devastating to research programs
      • No longer able to provide tax-free tuition for graduate students
        • Example: stipend of $24K and tuition waiver of $29K – student’s tax bill triples to $4,920
      • Erodes progress made in developing strong interest in STEM programs
        • Puts STEM education out of the reach of many students
      • Our legislators
      • Themes of Incoming UVA President Ryan
        • Community: opportunity to interact with and learn from a broadly diverse group of students, faculty, staff
        • Discovery: new knowledge that solves problems, leads to practical application, and brings new perspective to enduring questions
        • Service: public universities serve the public, starting with their own states
      • New Strategic Hire: Ken Walsh, PhD. Professor of CV Medicine and Director, Whitaker CV Institute, at Boston University SOM. Starts January 25, 2018. $.9M year one, $3.5M over five years.

Overview of Equal Opportunity & Civil Rights Policies and Reporting Options
Catherine Spear, AVP Equal Opportunity & Civil Rights
Emily Babb, AVP for Title IX Compliance & Title IX Coordinator

  • Presentation addressed:
    • Notice of non-discrimination and equal opportunity
    • Policy of Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence (Title IX Policy)
    • Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment (PADH Policy) and Preventing and Addressing Retaliation (PAR Policy)
    • Why reporting is important
    • How to report prohibited conduct under these policies
    • How to address prohibited conduct
  • See presentation.

December Health System Board Update
A. Bobby Chhabra, MD, Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery

  • Dr. Chhabra shared highlights from the December 6, 2017, HSB meeting. The HS goals dashboard showed notable improvement in solid organ and bone marrow transplants and addition investments by Seed & Venture Funds, moving these two indicators to green. All other categories are yellow.
  • FY18 first-quarter financial results were shared.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in the BIMS Classroom.

Faculty: Do You Know about This Professional Development Opportunity?

Committed to Excellence: (l-r) Christine M. Peterson, MD; Kenneth C. Bilchick, MD; Maryellen E. Gusic, MD; Ann L. Kellams, MD; P. Preston Reynolds, MD, PhD; Sukumar Sarkar, PhD; and Guillermo E. Solorzano, MD

Since the inception of its Certificate of Commitment to Excellence in Teaching series in 2012, the School of Medicine has offered professional development for faculty, fellows and residents, as well as students and staff who want to advance their skills as teachers and/or pursue scholarly work in education.

This program series is offered by the Office of Medical Education in conjunction with the Academy of Distinguished Educators. Opportunities include Medical Education Grand Rounds — lunchtime programs presented by nationally and internationally acclaimed experts in medical education — multiple afternoon sessions presented by UVA SOM faculty on various topics in education, and a monthly lunchtime Journal Club. Most are highly interactive sessions during which participants learn together and exchange ideas to enhance both teaching and learning.

This year’s series covers a range of topics of interest to those who teach in the classroom and in clinical settings. Topics include Providing Effective Feedback, Professional Identity Formation, Remediating the Learner in Need, Entrustable Professional Activities, and a research series. At the suggestions of our faculty, the content addresses learner assessment, curriculum development, advising and mentoring learning, and using a scholarly approach in educational leadership roles. The sessions are supplemented by a monthly journal club for participants to engage in a facilitated discussion of articles from the literature that address a broad variety of topics of interest.

In addition to receiving CME credit, anyone who attends 10 or more of these sessions over a two-year period receives a certificate acknowledging their commitment to professional development in education. To date, over 60 individuals have earned a certificate.

The topics presented are designed to help educators who teach across the continuum — medical student teaching, resident and fellow teaching, and peer/faculty development — and support participants in developing scholarly work and scholarship in education. The sessions provide an environment in which educators can get together to build skills and develop relationships.

We will build on the successes of past programming to meet the needs of those who are interested in biomedical and health sciences education. We welcome additional colleagues to lead and facilitate sessions in the Certificate series and for the Journal Club.

R.J. Canterbury, MD, MS, DLFAPA
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Education

Highlights: November MAC Meeting

Opening Comments from the Dean David S. Wilkes, MD

  • We learned a number of lessons from the DARs/CARs.
    • Accountability is key across all missions.
      • In education, we must ensure that students are prepared to perform the Entrustable Professional Activities.
      • In research, we must diversify the funding portfolios, maintain the standards for research funding per square foot of lab space, and maximize salary support on grants.
      • In the clinics, we must improve efficiencies across the board in the ambulatory setting and we must establish a group practice.
    • The reviews highlighted several priorities.
      • As leaders, we are all responsible for working together and guiding institutional change.
      • We must improve organizational structures and processes. In the dean’s office, we are doing this through developing business intelligence, improving IT infrastructure, and piloting the Be Smart initiative (lean processes).
      • We must build and strengthen external relationship across the University, through the Inova partnership, and through the CTSA initiative.
      • We will take education to a higher level through innovations in our graduate and master’s programs.
    • One of the programs we learned about in the DARs is the Silo Busters program in the Child Health Research Center (CHRC) in the Department of Pediatrics. James Nataro described Silo Busters for us.
      • The program is designed to facilitate interactions with basic scientists. Eligible basic scientists who will be working with Pediatrics faculty members are given joint appointments in the CHRC.
      • The research may be conducted in the lab of either the primary or the secondary appointee.
      • The objective is to attract basic scientists to work with clinicians.
      • The first Silo Buster recipients will be announced before the end of this year.

Bobby Chhabra, MD
The Department of Orthopedics’ clinical trials have grown from 4 trials in 2013 to more than 60 today. Over the last year, the clinical trials infrastructure has been fully supported by the overhead negotiated through the industry “rate card” mechanism.

Dr. Chhabra explained the methodology for developing the cost expectations for the rate card. It takes into account salary expenses (investigator and trial support staff) and OTPS. Billing may be based on an hourly rate or on trial enrollment and other milestones.

The rate card provides a process that is more streamlined and transparent for the budgeting process. It makes is easier for industry to set up trials. It provides salary support for MDs and PAs. The rate card helps to ensure that clinical revenues do not support the expenses of clinical trials.

Mentoring Program Continues to Develop Junior Faculty

The Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP) is off and running again! In case you’re not familiar with the program, it launched in the fall of 2016 and provides networking, social opportunities, and peer mentoring among colleagues who are at a similar stage in their career. It promotes the development and advancement of junior faculty through seminars and mentored scholarly projects, and facilitates mentoring relationships between senior and junior faculty.

This year’s group, composed of 17 participants from 9 clinical departments, meets every other week to discuss a broad range of topics needed for career success in academic medicine. These topics cover a range of areas, including education, research, leadership, communication, and publication. Recent examples are:

  • Applying a scholarly approach to the work you do with learners
  • Designing a Research or Quality Project
  • Professional Decision Making and the Professional Development Plan
  • Grant Writing & the Specific Aims Page
  • Promotion and Tenure
  • Social Media and Reputation Management
  • Writing for Publication and Scholarly Dissemination

While the current cohort does not represent every department, I want to stress that this program is open to all clinical and basic science faculty.

Each participant in the JFDP works on a scholarly project over the course of the program and has access to a mentor who will answer questions, provide resources, and assist in their growth. This year’s projects cover a wide range of topics. Here is a sample of efforts underway by our junior faculty:

  • “Mechanistic evaluation of biointegration of acellular dermal matrix products”
  • “Identification of low-risk patients with mild complicated brain injury”
  • “Identifying and maximizing resident learning style”
  • “The effects of transition from a specialty-based primary to consultative hospital service: Impact on patients, caregivers, and medical providers”
  • “The perioperative surgical home: Taking the third-year medical student clerkship beyond the operating room”
  • “Improving access to kidney transplant for Hispanic minorities in the state of Virginia”

The JFDP started in October and runs until next April, with the final two meetings focusing on the faculty project presentations, where participants will share project outcomes and their progress to date. I am particularly looking forward to these sessions.

If you’re interested in the JFDP (or know someone who is), the call for applications for fall 2018 will go out in the spring. Keep an eye on your email and this space for updates.

Thank you to the departmental mentors for helping develop our junior faculty and to Troy Buer, PhD; Ashley Ayers; Jennifer Aminuddin; and Alice Keys for providing logistical and operational support. The program would not be successful without their hard work.

Susan M. Pollart, MD, MS
Ruth E. Murdaugh Professor and Chair (interim) of Family Medicine
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development

VMED: Making Teaching and Learning Simpler

Making Virginia Medicine Better: (l-r) Dr. Megan Bray, Dr. Mary Kate Worden, Kim Holman, Dr. Maryellen Gusic, Robert Pastor, Dr. Randolph Canterbury, and Mark Moody.

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier and allow us to work faster or smarter; but it has to be the right technology, employed correctly. Too often we find some tech to be “good enough” and try to make it suit our needs. “Good enough” causes us to create Band-Aid solutions and workarounds which can translate to extra work and frustration. Over the years, the School of Medicine has been using a patchwork quilt of commercial and custom educational programs and software, added and modified where needed. We’re getting rid of them for something better.

The School of Medicine is in the process of building VMED, which stands for Virginia Medicine. This is an integrated learning-, curriculum-, and student-management system that is being designed with the specific needs of UVA in mind. We want to provide a seamless experience for students, faculty, and administration. With a system of our own design, we can build it to meet our needs instead of trying to muscle through the constraints of commercial software.

To build VMED, we started with the foundation of the UME NxGen Curriclum, the UVA 12 Competencies for the Contemporary Physician, which are our education program objectives for the MD degree. These competencies drive our educational activities and assessments, and VMED underpins those learning objectives and those, in turn, support our student management, online content delivery, assessments, gradebook, program evaluation, and much more. All of this assists us with our AAMC and LCME reporting and predictive analytics regarding our students’ USMLE performance. VMED, built from the ground up, also provides us with longitudinal data not only to assess our student performance but also provides us with program evaluation data necessary for continuous quality improvement

In simplest terms, we are replacing critical components in the student information system and think it will be a huge improvement for all. Student Source, Oasis, X-Credit, and Faculty Toolbox are a few of the current applications that are being replaced.

The largest pieces of VMED include:

  • the online testing system — Three classes of students are now using this.
  • a clinical assessment tool for undergraduate medical education — iCAN, which stands for Interactive Clinical Assessment Navigator, is the tool we use for assessing entrustable professional activities (EPA).
  • a learning management system for students — A home for resources, schedules, enrollment, and gradebook.
  • evaluations — Student-to-student, student-to-faculty, and student-to-course.
  • mapping of the curriculum — mapping to the physician competencies, which speaks to our accreditation as a medical school.

Most medical schools are using commercial products or open-source tools to deliver their curriculum to students and to map it for accreditation purposes. We’ll be joining a small community that is developing software from scratch. We’re moving forward with this because of the successes we’ve had with the new testing system and EPA programs — they are proof that we have the resources and the talent in the School of Medicine to build something that will suit our specific needs.

What Does This Mean for You?
We’re working on VMED now. Some modules have been piloted, but we’re also gathering requirements for future modules. The initial release of the learning management system will roll out in August 2018 with iterative releases to come in the months and years to follow.

Faculty who are teaching in the classroom or in the clinic have already seen some of these changes, particularly those using the assessment methodology for EPAs and those using the new online testing system. I hope that VMED will simplify teacher workflow for class preparation, approval of teaching materials, setting up exams, and reviewing student performance, and that it will offer faculty a clear view of how your work supports the physician competencies.

I would like to thank Dr. Megan Bray, Dr. Maryellen Gusic, Kim Holman, Mark Moody, Robert Pastor, Michael Szul, and Dr. Mary Kate Worden for their tireless efforts on VMED. It could not have happened without their hard work.

As more modules of VMED are ready for release, I’ll talk about them here. Stay tuned!

R.J. Canterbury, MD
Senior Associate Dean for Education
Wilford W. Spradlin Professor