Public Release: 

Academy of Rheumatology Medical educators at HSS fosters innovation to improve care

Hospital for Special Surgery

The Academy of Rheumatology Medical Educators at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) has created a stimulating academic environment for educators, promoted teaching excellence and supported innovative research in rheumatology education, according to a study presented at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR)/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP) annual meeting.

"The Academy supports career development for members of our faculty who devote their academic activities to the advancement of medical education, education research, and curriculum development," said Stephen Paget, MD, a rheumatologist at HSS and director of the Academy. "We seek to foster an atmosphere of scientific rigor to improve teaching effectiveness and curricula."

"It has been previously demonstrated that educators do not receive the same recognition as their colleagues in clinical and basic science, and financial support for education research is often inadequate," explained Jessica Berman, MD, a rheumatologist at HSS who presented the study at the ACR meeting. "With this in mind, the Academy of Rheumatology Medical Educators was founded in 2011 to enhance the status of medical education. To date, we have awarded 23 grants totaling almost $700,000," said Dr. Berman, associate director of the Academy.

Fundraising is conducted for education grants to encourage and support scholarly work. A request for proposals (RFP) is sent out yearly to HSS rheumatology faculty, and annual grants of up to $50,000 are awarded. All grant proposals are reviewed and scored according to Glassick's criteria by individuals nationally recognized for their education expertise. Proposals are also reviewed by the HSS Education Council, which provides ongoing oversight of the Academy's activities.

To date, the grants have resulted in the creation of eight unique curricula, an iBook on antiphospolipid syndrome for medical students and residents that has received five-star reviews, and a mobile app. The app, called LupusMinder, is designed to help people with lupus track medications, daily symptoms and appointments.

An example of a curriculum now being used in fellowship programs nationwide is "Class-Rheum - Critical Literature Assessment Skills Support - Rheumatology," a cloud-based modular assessment tool for rheumatology fellows that supports epidemiology and biostatistics learning.

Grant recipients have produced 21 national meeting abstracts, given 25 presentations at national meetings, and written seven manuscripts (five published, two submitted) and two editorials. Diverse topics include the assessment of professionalism, new pedagogical techniques for teaching epidemiology to fellows, the use of technology in education, a gout education program for patients and a hospital-based mentorship program.

"The Academy has created a milieu for like-minded people interested in education and a sense of camaraderie that you would not have without such a program," said Dr. Berman.

The education research funding program highlights the talents of teaching faculty by allowing them to distinguish themselves academically, according to Dr. Paget. "The formalized structure enables us to achieve the hospital's heightened educational goals and demonstrates the importance of recognizing the quality of education research as equivalent to clinical and basic science research," he said.

Many recipients have said that the Academy grant has had a major impact on their careers. Comments include:

"Having this project funded was very important for me. It has guided many of my subsequent research and clinical activities and has enriched my enjoyment and productivity."

"It helped me to develop a niche where I can feel most academically productive."

The award "allowed my recognition as someone who was doing research in education that was worthy of funding since finding research grants is next to impossible in education."

At the end of the day, the Academy's work also benefits patients, according to Dr. Berman. "We've created a culture that values educators and accelerates advances in teaching and learning, and this ultimately improves the care we provide to patients," she said.

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Hospital for Special Surgery Academy of Rheumatology Medical Educators: 5 Year Outcomes Demonstrate the Value of Supporting Education Research in the Academic Environment [abstract]. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2017; 69 (suppl 10).

Authors: Jessica R. Berman, Juliet Aizer, Anne R. Bass, Edward Parrish, Laura Robbins, Michael D. Tiongson and Stephen A. Paget, all at Hospital for Special Surgery.

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