Sigall K. Bell, MD
Rabkin Fellow in Medical Education
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
The medical writing initiative: An introduction to academic and reflective writing for 3rd year medical students during a longitudinal clerkship
Dr Bell completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in Molecular and Cell Biology. While at UC Berkeley, she was the recipient of several national scholar-athlete awards, a 4-time Academic All-American, an NCAA National Championships gymnast, and a member of the US gymnastics team at the World Maccabiah Games. She earned her M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and completed her residency training in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston, MA. After serving as Chief Medical Resident at BWH, she studied at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and contributed to public health and clinical efforts in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Brazil, Israel, and South Africa to better understand the HIV epidemic and patients' experience of illness on a global scale. She completed her fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, MA, where she now practices, focusing on HIV care. Her recent book "Biography of AIDS" focuses on historical, social, medical, and political aspects of the HIV epidemic - as part of an integrated curriculum for high school students. She is the BIDMC site director for the Harvard Medical School Patient-Doctor III course, and former director of a medical student Writing Program. Both courses emphasize reflective practice and humanism in medicine.
Interested in understanding what patients, families, and clinicians experience following medical error, she co-developed a curriculum based on filmed narratives of patients and families across the country who experienced harmful mistakes. As part of a national "Train the Trainer" program, she provided educational leaders with key tools to teach this curriculum focusing on the human dimensions of error in their own institutions, and studied doctors' and students' experiences with disclosure, in order to promote transparent communication that improves patient safety. As a recipient of the Arnold P. Gold Professorship, her research also probes the effects of organizational culture and the "hidden curriculum" - the customs that shape communication and moral decision-making in the clinical learning environment - on patient safety and humanism.
As a co-investigator on an AHRQ grant examining specific barriers to implementation of Disclosure and Offer programs in Massachusetts, she aims to help develop systems that promote the healing process by supporting and compensating patients and families in the aftermath of medical error. She is Co-Director of Patient Safety and Quality Initiatives at the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice, Children's Hospital Boston, whose mission it is to promote relational learning that integrates patient and family perspectives and the everyday ethics of clinical practice. There she is part of a team that has trained over 600 interdisciplinary clinician-leaders in medical error disclosure nationally, and is currently developing a new educational paradigm for "Patients as Teachers" in inter-professional training sessions on patient safety. Her interest in involving patients directly in medical education and transparent medical care also extends to her efforts on OpenNotes, a clinical technologic innovation that allows doctors to share their visit notes directly with their patients. Dr. Bell has received several teaching awards, and is a member of Academy of Medical Education at Harvard Medical School. She lectures internationally and her work in medical education can be found in the New England Journal of Medicine, Academic Medicine, and the New York Times.