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Project Medical Education Comes to Boston

BIDMC hosts policy makers

"Seeing the practical application of any policy is probably the best way to learn about what you're doing and how to apply it to future policy decisions," said Todd Adams, Legislative Assistant, Office of Congressman Jim Langevin, Rhode Island as he rode the bus from Cambridge Health Alliance to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "It's these types of trips I think that are most beneficial above all to see how policies are growing both from the top down, but also from the ground up."

Adams was one of more than 30 state and federal policy makers who came to Boston for a day long intensive called Project Medical Education (PME) sponsored by the Council of Boston Teaching Hospitals (COBTH). PME was developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to offer congressional and agency staff a crash course in medical education by allowing them to assume the roles of a medical student, resident physician and academic physician.

The PME participants started the day in medical school at Harvard, Boston University or Tufts. From there they fanned out across Boston's teaching hospitals interacting with students, residents and participating in simulations, trainings and patient interactions.

"We're grateful to the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation and other members of Congress for giving their key staff members this opportunity during the Congressional recess," said Tish McMullin, Esq., Deputy General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs. "Congressional staff were able to see our education and research missions in action, and this is crucial to understanding of the impact of federal budget decisions on the work we do at the medical center. Every dollar counts."

A tired, but enthusiastic group arrived at BIDMC late in the afternoon. Moments after sitting down in the simulation center, a voice came over the intercom announcing an incoming trauma. Lead by Sean Kelly, MD Emergency Medicine, Carrie Tibbles, MD Emergency Medicine and Daniel Henning, MD a resident in Emergency Medicine, the PME participants quickly readied themselves to receive and treat the victim.

"Even though I knew it was a simulation, I was so nervous I couldn't get my gloves on," said Patrick Lally, Congressional Aide, Office of Congressman Edward Markey (MA).

Richard Schwartzstein, MD, Pulmonary and Critical Care and Vice President of Education hoped not only to provide a realistic trauma experience, but also to illustrate the importance of simulation training provided at academic medical centers, an invaluable tool of medical education.

PME's goal is to expose policy makers to information like this that will help them make insightful decisions about issues that affect the future of medical education.

Participants completed their PME experience by meeting with BIDMC physician scientists Vikas Sukhatme, MD, Chief Academic Officer, Zoltan Arany, MD, Cardiology, and Terry Maratos-Flier, MD, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, to better understand how laboratory research fits in to the academic medical environment.

As Sukhatme told the group, "Biomedical research ultimately drives patient care. Without basic laboratory experiments, which are often long and tedious, we wouldn't have the core foundation that you need to ultimately develop new therapies." Lest participants think this a mere sound bite, Sukhatme asked them to consider that one in 10 individuals will be diagnosed with cancer. "Think about the 10 people in the world who mean the most to you. Now consider that one of them will develop cancer. Wouldn't you want to have an effective treatment option to offer them? That's why we need biomedical research."

Before the session finished up, Flier provided the group with a quick tour of her laboratory, where she studies the role of diet to the development of obesity and diabetes.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit