Issue 80 - Feb. 7, 2017
Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson
Friends and colleagues,
Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with middle school students at Somerset Academy in North Las Vegas. They are learning to establish their personal goals using the principle of "first things first." 
I shared with them how I applied the principle in developing the medical school. I told the students that I started with the end goal in mind - to create a world-class center of excellence and innovation for medical education, patient care, and research - and then I backed out all the steps that are needed to ensure success.
I also enjoyed listening to a performance of the excellent middle school band. I played flute and piccolo from fifth grade through college. Although I went on to study medicine, playing music was an important part of my life at that time.
Listening to the students' music reminded me of Edward Simanton, our director of educational outcomes and assessment. He is an example of how people with specialized skills work behind the scenes to ensure excellent teaching in medical schools.
Edward Simanton, PhD
Ed began his career as a music teacher and bandleader in higher education. He taught in Central and South America before returning to the United States for his PhD in educational research at the University of North Dakota. His dissertation entailed surveying band directors across the U.S. to determine if they had adequate tools to grade students on their musical progress. The experience led to a career in education assessment and positions at the schools of medicine at the University of North Dakota and the University of South Dakota.
At the UNLV School of Medicine, Ed's primary role is to measure standards in the school's curriculum through student course surveys, faculty evaluations, comparison of our students' performance on national tests, and the like. It's a vital part of ensuring our students receive the education they need and deserve.
Ed says he was drawn here because of our unique curriculum that brings together several teaching innovations from other schools. While these different aspects have been proven effective individually, they've never been pulled under one program. His work will guide our continual improvement. Ed also will report outcomes of curricular innovations in the medical education literature so other schools can learn from our experience. 
For example, we have developed a novel wellness program and incorporated the teaching of alternative and complementary medicine into our curriculum. As part of Ed's assessment program, we will measure empathy and burnout among our medical students and compare them to other medical students across the country. We believe our wellness program will help keep students more balanced and resilient, and less subject to depression and anxiety during medical school, and throughout their lives as physicians. 
If this program is successful, we will want to ensure other schools learn from our model. If it needs improvement, we will modify it until it is ideal. That is the power and excitement of using assessment in medical education curriculum.    
Over the next few months, I will introduce you to some more of our specialized faculty members, like Ed, who are a critical part of our success.
Best wishes,
Follow Our Progress