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Report on the 2017 Regional Spring Meeting of AAMC’s Western Group on Educational Affairs February 25-28, in Salt Lake City

By Linda Suk-Ling Murphy, MLIS
Research Librarian for the Health Sciences
University of California, Irvine (UCI) Libraries
Irvine, CA

The Western Group on Educational Affairs (WGEA) is one of four regional groups of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) Group on Educational Affairs (GEA). Its mission is to “promote excellence in the continuum of medical education by fostering the professional development of medical educators and advancing research in medical education.” The annual meetings hosted by institutional members provide participants great opportunities for collaboration and sharing ideas. With support from a NN/LM PSR Professional Development Award, I had the opportunity to attend this year’s conference from February 25-28, at the Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel. With the theme The Val “U” of Medical Education across the Continuum, the University of Utah School of Medicine hosted this year’s conference. The conference offered a wealth of programs covering medical curriculum topics ranging from systems to managing accreditation to designing successful active classroom activities. It brought together medical school deans, officers, educators, students, computer resource personnel, and librarians from more than twenty medical schools to share and discuss current challenges and future issues in the development and continuum of undergraduate and graduate medical education. This article summarizes the three-day program of workshops, panel discussions, small group interactive dialogue, and the abstracts of oral and poster presentations that I participated in and benefited from as a librarian-attendee and medical educator.

library space with display cases, chairs and computer workstations
Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library study space

Opening Keynote on Medical Humanities

Dr. Audrey Shafer, a professor of anesthesia and an amazing poet, was the opening keynote speaker. She also directs the Arts, Humanities, and Medicine Program at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics and is the founder of the Medicine & Muse Program. The focus of her talk, Medical Humanities, Creativities, Communities, Connection, was filled with compassion and integrity. She began with the definition of medical humanities and why it is an important program to implement for the benefits of both patients and healthcare providers. She explained her job “as an anesthesiologist is to care for people at their most vulnerable in the journey from goodbye to hello” and shared her two poems, Anesthesia and The Anesthesiologist and the Patient. Through her poems, she uses metaphors to reassure her patients about their health care journey, describing them traveling through a rough sea and guiding them safely back to the shore. Toward the end of her talk, each of us did a narrative writing exercise with her instruction to think metaphorically. After we shared our narrative story with our own table, volunteers came forward to present their metaphors to the entire audience. This was an amazing and fun writing exercise. In less than ten minutes, I learned to write short metaphoric stories. You can learn more about the Medical Humanities program at Stanford from the Winter 2017 issue of Medicine and Muse Special Report and the article she wrote, “Healing Arts: The Synergy of Medicine and the Humanities.”

Medical Humanities is a topic that I am especially interested in and passionate about. At UCI, I have worked collaboratively with faculty of the Community Engagement Working Group for Medical Humanities Initiatives to plan and organize exhibit events in the UCI Libraries. The most recent one included the Plexus Exhibit at both the Ayala Science Library and the Grunigen Medical Library. Dr. Shafer’s talk inspired me to continue my work with the working group to promote and educate the library community about medical humanities.

Concurrent Sessions

The conference offered many opportunities for attendees to participate in workshops, panels, small group discussions, and oral abstract presentations. Topics ranged from helping students to develop critical thinking skills, integrating active learning techniques, designing new courses, assessing student learning outcomes, to leading change in medical education. I was particularly interested in active learning techniques and tips to developing good questions for class assignments and exams. Two informative workshops that I attended were Becoming the Riddler – Principles in Writing Effective Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) and Bringing your Exam Questions to Bloom: Writing Effective Open-ended Questions to Test Higher-level Thinking. Both workshops offered valuable tips for developing rubrics that will help educators like me design effective multiple choice and open-ended questions to meet the course objectives. Serving as the library’s medical education coordinator for the School of Medicine, my colleagues and I have written and implemented numerous PubMed quizzes and EBM exercises. I hope to apply some of the techniques I learned from these workshops to the EBM assignments we create in the future. For example, some useful tips are avoiding the use of imprecise terms, ordering answer choices alphabetically or numerically, and creating answer choices that are similar in length and grammatical form.

Fostering Creative and Critical Thinking Within the Context of Medical Student Research was one of the small groups that several librarians and I participated in. The group discussed the instructional methods used in an innovative Creative and Critical Thinking course for medical students conducting summer research at the University of Utah, and instructional techniques and methodologies that might help students to actively engage in self-directed learning activities to promote lifelong learning skills. We also suggested the use of library resources and research tools that could enhance medical students’ abilities to identify potential areas for research.

The panel discussion on Open Access Publishing in 2017: The Pros and Cons of Disseminating Outcomes of Educational Scholarship Via Open Access Journals was the most enlightening session I attended at this conference. What I found most interesting was many issues and concerns raised by the panel members and the participating audience members about Open Access (OA) publishing that were common and harmful misunderstandings, e.g., OA journals are poor in quality, the articles are not peer-reviewed and are not copyrighted, they only help readers, not authors, etc. The number of predatory journals and publishers available are expanding rapidly. It drew concerns from the participants when there was no clear guidance to distinguish the legitimacy of an OA journal. I specifically urged them to consult their librarians for guidance when in doubt. The panel members also pointed out a recent article that I coauthored with two emergency physicians, Discriminating Between Legitimate and Predatory Open Access Journals: Report from the International Federation for Emergency Medicine Research Committee that might help clarify some of the misconceptions about OA publishing and enable them to distinguish the differences between a reputable and a questionable fake OA journal.

MedEdPortal Focus Group

AAMC Medical Education Officers sought input from focus group participants on improving the instruction to potential authors for submission to MedEdPortal, which is the AAMC’s open-access, peer-reviewed publication of teaching and assessment tools. In addition, the publication is in the process of preparing and applying for MEDLINE indexing/inclusion at the end of this year. With my past experience helping the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine getting indexed in MEDLINE and several online databases, I jumped at the opportunity to share my experience and point of view as a health sciences librarian with other participants and AAMC executive officers, including Dr. Alison J Whelan, the Chief Medical Education Officer.

Opioid Epidemic Focus Group

America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic and academic medicine is on the frontlines to deal with it. The purpose of the opioid epidemic focus group, led by the AAMC medical officers, was to gather diverse medical educators’ feedback on methods for learning about opioids, safe prescribing practice, and pain management. As a librarian participant, I expressed my interest and joined the discussion group to share my recent encounters with several faculty, fellows, residents and medical students who sought my assistance in the development of systematic review search strategies for related topics. Medical librarians can and have played a crucial role to help students and clinicians develop self-directed and life-long learning skills, so that they will be motivated and have an interest in seeking further learning when there are questions as to the best choices of patient management.

Poster Session

The poster session was held on the second day of the conference. A total of forty-six posters were presented. One of the posters that drew my attention was from a librarian, MeSHing with Rounds: Question Topics Asked of a Clinical Librarian. With my current job responsibilities, I don’t participate in patient care rounds. However, I found the results interesting and relevant. The most frequently asked questions/encountered terms during rounds were relating to diseases of the digestive system, nervous system, or cardiovascular system; and drugs, especially anticoagulants, platelet aggregation inhibitors, glucocorticoids, anti-bacterial agents, and analgesics. Other related posters that might be of interest to librarians include Analyzing the Variability of Abstract Format Requirements Set by Individual Medical Journals and Engagement of Accepted Medical Students as They Transition into the First Year of Medical School.

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