Transformational Times

Words of Hope, Character & Resilience from our Virtual Community

Friday, March 3, 2023

In This Issue:

Guest Director's Corner


Poetry Corner

  • Winter's Breath, by Julie Arthur
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Guest Director's Corner

“A Doctor Should Conclude His Life by Becoming a Philosopher?” Reflections on my Experiences in P-METaL 


By John Yoon, MD

“What does philosophy have to do with medicine?”

“I’m philosophically challenged…I’m not sure this is for me…”

“Plato and Aristotle? I don’t remember the last time I took a course in philosophy…”

So full disclosure: I’m not a philosopher by training. I studiously avoided reading philosophy texts growing up. I don’t even recall taking a single philosophy class in college. All throughout my medical training, I watched copies of Plato and Aristotle collect dust on my bookshelf as they were squished between huge medical tomes like Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine and Robbins’ Pathologic Basis of Disease. And now nearly twenty years into clinical practice, I can’t exactly name a moment when I completed a module of Continuing Medical Education (CME) that connected the relevance of philosophy to medicine in any meaningful fashion. The sentiments listed at the beginning of this essay are ones I’ve heard expressed by my fellow colleagues over the years, and yet they represent genuine feelings I’ve had over the course of my own medical career.

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A Case for Consultations in Character Integration

By Fabrice Jotterand, PhD, MA

“Medicine is the most humane of the sciences, the most scientific of the humanities.”

- Edmund Pellegrino (1979)

Physicians are familiar with clinical consultations. They provide an opportunity to get advice on a diagnosis, management of a disease, or a procedure's adequacy. Clinical work comprises many uncertainties and complexities that can be clarified and potentially addressed by seeking input from an experienced clinician through consultation. Our lives, likewise, are complex, full of uncertainties and sometimes require an outsider’s help to understand why we are in a potentially dicey situation; how best to proceed and make the appropriate adjustments. When confronted by a serious moral dilemma, we welcome the input of a family member, a friend, or an individual we hold in high esteem for their wisdom and moral discernment. In both instances, it is through the participation in a community, be it the medical profession, the close family, or a circle of friends, that individuals can get input, support, and advice.

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Character Mentors Help Transform Medical Education

By Ryan Spellecy, PhD, Arthur Derse, MD, JD, and Christopher Stawski, PhD

Character is in the very DNA of an initiative from the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education that employs human-centered design processes to facilitate the Kern Institute’s goal of transforming medical education through character, competence, and caring. As character mentors from the Philosophies of Medical Education Transformation Laboratory (P-METaL), we help TI2 project leaders and their teams identify, highlight, and advance character strengths through their projects...

Through multiple iterations of the program, we have consulted on 47 projects over the past 4 years of cohorts. The projects have included not only developing character strengths within those who participate in the project’s interventions, but also within the project leaders themselves as part of the advancement of the projects. For many of the project leaders and teams, this is the first time that they have attempted to consider formation of character within their work. Thus, there is a learning curve for them to conceive how various educational innovations they have proposed can be generative for this purpose. It can be challenging at the outset to begin viewing their work through the lens of character development.

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How the Interdisciplinary Nature of P-METaL Allows for Genuine Student Contributions


By Justin Chu, MA and Quinn McKinnon, MA

What role do medical students have in approaching questions of physician character or contributing to the philosophy of a medical school curriculum? Two student members of the Philosophies of Medical Education Transformation Laboratory (P-METaL) share their experiences in the philosophical branch of the Kern Institute…

Despite being a lab focused on philosophy, P-METaL has a surprising lack of those with formal philosophical training. Instead, P-METaL is a collective of professionals in, yes, philosophy but also medicine (including residents and students), basic science, education, psychology, ethics, law, and a multiplicity of other fields. Members come from various MCW departments as well as other medical schools.

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Winter's breath

By Julie Arthur

Education Program Coordinator lll

The February air this morning 

Is thick and chilled, 

A reprieve from frozen days passed and coming, 

Gratitude sandwiched in between 

The desolation a midwestern winter can bring. 


Sunshine beams on the last traces of 

Pillowy snow melting: 

The pavement wet, 

Ever so slight hints of spring flit through the air 

Like crazed fairies naught to be caught. 


Catch the feeling in a jar before it disappears, 

This day: winter’s breath, 

A moment here then gone. 


I hold open my hands and try, and try again, 

Grasping at the sun with all my will and might 

Always a child of the light. 


Julie has worked for MCW for 14 years and loves to write poetry in her treasured spare time. This sometimes involves dictating it to her phone while washing the dishes or folding the laundry, as she is a busy mom of two young boys! 

Submit a Poem for Next Week

National Employee Recognition Day - Employee Appreciation Day is an event, observed on the first Friday in March, meant for employers to give thanks or recognition to their employees. It was created by Dr. Bob Nelson who was a founding member of Recognition Professionals International in 1995,[1][2] initially to celebrate the publication of his book 1,001 Ways to Reward Employees and to remind employers to thank their employees when they do good work.

Ideas for showing your appreciation:

  • Share with the entire MCW community the impact one makes at our institution by completing the We Appreciate You form on InfoScope.
  • Post an appreciation note on the employee’s door/work area or write an email of appreciation recognizing contributions and achievements.
  • Organize a flood of team and/or peer appreciation within Microsoft Teams using the “Praise”, “GIF” or “Sticker” to send gratefulness messages throughout the day.
  • Dedicate time for employee appreciation during a meeting or huddle; assign everyone to a buddy and ask them to share something specific they appreciate about each other.
  • Plan an in-person or virtual lunch or celebration to play a game or socialize as a team. 
  • Organize a group campus walk, indoor or outdoor (weather permitting) and invite virtual employees to step away from their desks at the same time for a walk at home.

What have you done to encourage your fellow team members for employee appreciation day?

Reply Here

Join us for a live storytelling event with MCW Students, Residents, Fellows, Faculty, & Staff

Come share your own story or listen to other narratives and celebrate the commonality of the human experience! Register to be a Storyteller below!


Please join us on Thursday, March 23 at 6:30 p.m. for MedMoth: A Storytelling Reflection on Medicine. The event will be hosted in person in MCW's Alumni Center.


Listen to stories by faculty, staff, residents, fellows, and students as they share their own true experiences in the world of medicine. Inspired by The Moth, this event will entail authentic storytelling and will be an enlightening audience experience that you won't want to miss.

March 23, 2023

6:30 pm

MCW Alumni Center

Register to be a Storyteller at MedMoth
Register to Attend MedMoth

Understanding Medical Professional Identity and

Character Development

April 28, 2023

8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. CDT


Professional identity formation (PIF), as defined by the Carnegie Foundation, is the “ongoing self-reflective process involving habits of thinking, feeling, and acting” as a physician. The holistic development of these capacities of PIF can be interpreted as essential qualities of one's character and integrity.


Education in the professions must design learning environments that center self-reflection within the PIF curriculum and provide growth opportunities that challenge while offering support and guidance for PIF growth, as well as the learner's well-being. In this symposium, we aim to convene medical education researchers, instructors, and others to engage on the state of PIF research, the goals, and interests of attendees, going beyond the confines of reductionist approaches. Our overarching goal is to transcend to holistic and humanistic integration spaces, weaving a central thread that is crucial to the person’s professional self.

Keynote Presentation

Can You Imagine How Far They've Come?:

PIF As Immigration

Presented by

Lara Varpio, PhD 

Visit our website for more information about the program, including agenda, topics, and presenters.  

Register Here

Get ready to Apply to the KINETIC3 Program!


Are you interested in directing a medical school course in the future? Do you want to learn about active learning techniques for the foundational sciences? Do you want to build character education into your current teaching? Are you looking to improve your teaching skills at the bedside? 

If you answered YES to any of these questions, you should apply to the KINETIC3 program!


The program is entering its sixth year at the Medical College of Wisconsin and has produced 138 graduates. Our program is open to any MCW faculty, staff, advanced practice provider, student, resident, or fellow interested in advancing their skills in medical education. 


We will be holding virtual informational sessions on:

  • March 8th from 12-12:30 pm
  • March 10th from 11-11:30 am 
  • March 15th from 12:30-1 pm
  • March 23rd from 12-12:30 pm  
  • March 27th from 12:30-1 pm  


ALL VIRTUAL ON MS TEAMS. Please email [email protected] for a calendar invite.  


Applications are OPEN for our Excellence in Teaching Track. We will close applications on March 31, 2023.


If you have any questions about the program, please don't hesitate to contact us at [email protected]. For more information please check out our website here. We look forward to your application!

Participants sought for leadership development pilot study on flourishing

Researchers at the Kern National Network for Flourishing in Medicine (KNN) are conducting a pilot research study designed to study the impact of leadership development coursework on the perceived flourishing levels of faculty at MCW. This is a professional development opportunity for all MCW faculty.

Read More

Call for Transformational Ideas!

Designing New Innovations in Medical Education


The Kern Institute invites all MCW faculty, students, staff, residents, postdocs, and fellows to submit ideas for funding through the 2023 Transformational Ideas Initiative (TI2) Program.

This program focuses on innovating and transforming medical education. We are looking for ideas that improve the learning environment for students, residents, and/or fellows at MCW.



Who is this for? Anyone who is…

  •  Interested in experimenting
  • Open to exploring new ideas and reimagining existing ideas or programs
  •  Curious, compassionate, change-makers
  • Truly interested in transforming medical education for the future

Project teams will be guided through the development of their idea through summer workshops, one on one coaching, and character mentorship through the Kern Institute’s Human-Centered Design Lab.

Each project will be implemented throughout the 2023-24 academic year. Funding for each project will be individually granted at the conclusion of summer workshops based on the needs of each project. For more information about the program, visit our website.

Applications will be accepted until Monday, April 3, 2023.

Submit Your Idea Here

IWill 3.0 Will Begin in March 2023

AWSM is excited to kick off IWill 3.0 in March 2023 as we host the AWSM Women's History Month Symposium. Our event includes our three speakers as well as a research poster presentation with awards! Learn more about submitting your poster abstract to our scientific session!

The Transformational Times publishes weekly, delivering stories of hope, character and resilience to our virtual community.

Jeff Fritz, PhDEditor-in-Chief

Editorial Board: Bruce Campbell, MDKathlyn Fletcher, MD, Adina Kalet, MD, Wendy Peltier, MD, Karen Herzog, Justine Espisito, Nabil Attlassy, Julia Bosco, Ana Istrate, Wolf Pulsiano, Eileen Peterson,  Anna Visser, James Wu & Emelyn Zaworski

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