Ongoing collaborations help foster a culture of lifelong learning at WMed

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As the maturation of WMed continues, leaders at the medical school continue an intentional focus on several initiatives that foster a culture of lifelong learning for students, residents, fellows, faculty, and staff.

The efforts are being accomplished through collaboration and coordination by Faculty Affairs, Continuing Education, Human Resources, and leaders in wellness and undergraduate and graduate medical education.

“We are putting things together in an eclectic way knowing that any one thing isn’t for everyone but hopefully there is something for everyone,” said Karen Horneffer-Ginter, PhD, the medical school’s assistant dean for Wellness.

Since arriving at WMed in 2018, Dr. Horneffer-Ginter has helped boost the number of wellness offerings for learners, as well as faculty and staff. Her work has led to the launch of several wellness initiatives at the medical school, including regularly held wellness workshops, fitness classes, and lunch and learn sessions. The wellness curricula at WMed for medical students, residents, and fellows offers tools for – and a focus on – personal well-being, mind-body tools, resilience strategies, professional wellness and values, spirituality, and creativity reflection.

“I think it’s important to expand the lens of how we think about health and well-being as a medical school and keep the conversation fresh and progressive and on the cutting edge,” Dr. Horneffer-Ginter said. “From an organizational standpoint, there is something so important about having opportunities to learn and grow and for people to have a feeling of engagement at their workplace.”

For 2020, Dr. Horneffer-Ginter said WMed has partnered with The Gilmore to bring in student artists to perform at the medical school’s W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus four times per year beginning in April. Additionally, collaborations between the medical school and the Fetzer Institute are continuing with Well-Being Ambassador trainings at Fetzer and an upcoming Spirituality and Medicine Symposium, which will be held at WMed annually.

At the same time that efforts around wellness are blossoming, Continuing Education continues to play a key role in promoting lifelong learning at WMed and throughout the medical community in Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan, said Michael Busha, MD, MBA, the medical school’s associate dean for Educational Affairs.

In 2018, the medical school became jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide interprofessional continuing education for the healthcare team. And, more recently, the medical school welcomed Nancy Bjorklund, EdD, as its new director of Continuing Education. 

“Now that we are serving the continuing development of the larger healthcare team, an increased focus on integration with our healthcare partners in the community is occurring to promote both individual lifelong learning, as well as institutional lifelong learning through continuous quality improvement,” Dr. Busha said. “The Office of Continuing Education is a foundational piece of the medical school’s mission to promote and advance the culture of quality-driven care through ongoing professional development and learning.”

Dr. Bjorklund said her office is focused on helping develop and provide balanced, evidence-based educational opportunities that meet the real needs of healthcare professionals and improve clinical performance and patient outcomes.

“Through continuing education, we bring continuity between education and practice while meeting the ACCME standards that have been set,” Dr. Bjorklund said.

That philosophy of continuous learning and improvement is one that carries over into the medical school’s office of Faculty Affairs and also Human Resources.

Lisa Graves, MD, associate dean for Faculty Affairs at WMed, said the medical school’s professional development offerings focus on the full continuum of learners, from students and residents to fellows and faculty.

“The idea is to give our people a series of skills to start with and then build from there,” Dr. Graves said. “The goal of faculty development is to see it as a continuum.”

That continuum, she said, begins for medical students at WMed in their fourth year as they prepare to transition to residency training. At that time, the students take part in a course aimed at equipping them with the tools to teach as resident physicians even though their time for teaching will be limited by their busy schedule.

For residents and fellows, as well as faculty, Dr. Graves said the office of Faculty Affairs offers professional development sessions that are web-based and accessible at a time that is convenient for them.

“The challenge with faculty development as you move into your working years is that you’re busy,” Dr. Graves said. “I think the focus on the continuum is key. You have three generations of learners engaged in conversations about how best to learn. It really is about giving everyone the same language to talk about teaching and I think what’s happened is we’ve created a culture where everyone is engaged in that same language around teaching and learning.”

In Human Resources, leaders launched new professional development opportunities for WMed staff in 2018 and the initiative has grown quickly, said Rich Daudert, the medical school’s manager of Organizational Development.

Daudert and HR Director Shayne McGuire have put together a professional development program for staff that now boasts more than a dozen offerings that cover a number of topics, including communication, conflict management, leadership, and emotional intelligence, among other topics.

“For our employees, it’s about walking away with nuggets of knowledge that they can use on the job, tools and techniques that can help them be more effective and more efficient,” Daudert said. “It’s a huge influencer on our culture and impacts the way we treat each other and the way we handle things that come up.”

Daudert said the growth in professional development offerings for employees has proven successful and, in light of that success, new offerings – leadership development trainings and supervisor trainings -- will be added in 2020.

“The message that we want to drive home is all of this is something that we value for our WMed employees,” Daudert said.

McGuire said the professional development offerings from HR are essential to fostering growth and positive morale among WMed staff.

“We value our employees and our focus on professional development speaks to our mission of lifelong learning, McGuire said. “Our hope is that employees also feel more valued, and find their new skills helpful in the important work they do each day at WMed.”