The myriad facets of health care are ever-changing.
A demand for clinicians and health care facilities is amplified, if only to keep pace with demand in a growing yet evolving, often frenetic environment.
The need for effective teachers is paramount.
The Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine, through the Master of Health Professions Education program, wants to ensure that need is neither neglected nor overlooked.
“One of our biggest challenges, and really one of the challenges of every new clinical training program, is finding qualified people to teach clinical care,” said Dr. Victoria Kaprielian, associate dean for Faculty Development and Medical Education and MHPE program director.
The inventive program, the only one of its kind in North Carolina, offers clinicians of all disciplines a master’s degree focused on leadership, change management, curriculum design and teaching skills.
“What’s most important … is that we are preparing leaders and great teachers in places far from academic medical centers,” Kaprielian said.
Early on, a federal grant that helped start the program focused on physicians and physician assistants.
“But this program would be great for pharmacists, physical therapists and anyone involve in education ofhealth professionals,” said Kaprielian, who pointed to a physiologist now enrolled in the program.
A strength of the MHPE, she says, is a diverse faculty, including the medical school, College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, School of Education & Human Science and School of Business.
“It actually improves the educational experience if we get a broader engagement of different professions.”
Goals of the MHPE degree program include training clinicians as educators and leaders, enabling clinicians to enhance their practices and improve population health, while increasing capacity to train more health professionals in areas of need. Training that’s practically relevant, immediately applicable. Training that keeps pace with an aging population and the global growth of medical schools, programs, and students.
“We don’t have enough faculty to staff all of the new programs opening in the US,” Kaprielian says of the overall shortage.
Students can complete the 30-credit, six-term hybrid program in two years, or longer if desired.
Dr. Tom Motyka, chair and associate professor of the Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, graduated from the MHPE in 2020. Motyka said he recommends the program to everyone in his department. Outside his department, too.
“I think it’s something that almost anyone who’s in academics ought to consider doing,” he said. “It makes them a better teacher.”
Since graduating from the program, Motyka obtained — and is now managing — a grant to research pain and musculoskeletal injuries, centered mostly around arthritis and prolotherapy. Prolotherapy is an injection treatment, potentially useful in a variety of conditions involving musculoskeletal pain, particularly knee osteoarthritis, he said.
Elements learned from the MHPE program have helped Motyka to more effectively plan, produce and use the research gained through the grant.
“I think the quality of the courses and the quality of the instruction in this department … has really improved,” he said. “It also helped us really adapt to the COVID period, which threw everybody into turmoil. We all had to revise how we delivered courses in a remote fashion, and now back in-person.”
The MHPE program is designed for people who work full time, and classes meet online one evening each week, in addition to other assigned classwork.
It’s good to see one another, Kaprielian says. Even if only once each week.
“That community helps to encourage each other through the challenges. The groups that I had during the pandemic shutdowns used to call their class meetings ‘Thursday therapy.’ It helped them to deal with the challenges of practice.”
Graduates of the program become leaders, but they also have a clear path toward academia and teaching.
“One of the things that I thought when we were starting the program was that it would help people who are interested in academics,” Kaprielian said. “Of our first three classes, almost every student got a new position within a year. That was more impact than I expected.”
Kim Stabingas, who graduated from the program in 2021, was in full-time clinical practice when she started MHPE. Now as director of Experiential Education and an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Stabingas oversees students in their clinical years.
“I always had a love for education,” Stabingas said. “I just wanted to be the best educator that I possibly could be. I had the tools, I just didn’t necessarily know how to use them or apply them, especially in different settings.”
One week, she said, the class talked about learning in small groups. In another the focus was lecture-based learning.
“So, it wasn’t that I necessarily needed to pick one way over another, but it put me in a position to where … you may not feel the most comfortable with this type of learning or advanced teaching, but you’re going to do it anyway,” she said. “And it was kind of surprising, because … you realize that maybe you really did have the confidence, or really you did have the tools. You just didn’t know how to apply them.”
Stabingas said she applies something learned from the program every day, whether that’s writing learning objectives, analyzing test scores, developing or proposing a curriculum change or improving teaching techniques.
“I have nothing but good things (to say), and I thank the MHPE program for preparing me to take this role on.”