Educating the Doctors of Tomorrow: Preparing for an Uncertain Future

Written by: Terri Janos Contact:

NOVEMBER 05, 2021

Carl J. Shapiro Institute for Education and Research at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) Celebrates 25 Years

Over the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the medical world in many ways. In addition to the clinical strains on staff and hospitals, the pandemic forced a titanic shift in how faculty approach the education of trainees and students, emphasizing the importance of critical thinking skills, self-directed learning, and underscoring the need for a solid understanding of the underlying principles of human biology.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Carl J. Shapiro Institute for Education and Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has been a leader in this shift, anticipating this need over many years.

“Confronting a truly new disease, we all had to learn on-the-fly, reason through the novel problems we encountered, and sustain our curiosity and empathy in the face of much human suffering,” said Richard Schwartzstein, MD, executive director of the Carl J. Shapiro Institute for Education and Research and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at BIDMC. “From clinical reasoning, to communication skills, to reinforcing the humanistic elements of medicine, medical education became more critical than ever before.”

At the time of its inception in 1996, the Shapiro Institute was a one-of-a-kind entity within an academic medical center, devoted to the development of professional medical educators and the advancement of understanding how best to teach and help students and trainees learn.

“It represented a commitment to scientifically-based medical education mirroring the philosophy of evidence-based medicine initiated in the early 20th century with the findings of the report commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation on the state of medical schools,” Schwartzstein said. “The 25th anniversary is a milestone for the achievements of those who have worked to support the success of the vision of the Institute and an opportunity to look to the future of an ever-changing landscape of medicine and the evolving needs of the doctors of tomorrow.”

Among the Institute’s greatest accomplishments are:

  • The bi-annual series of national meetings known as the Millennium Conferences, which have brought hundreds of medical educators together to discuss critical medical education questions and to find workable solutions for problems confronting medical schools across North America. Some topics and challenges addressed include: the best ways to use simulation; how to teach critical thinking; how to address medical education across the continuum of medical school and residency; how to support and develop self-directed learning in medicine.
  • The Rabkin Fellowship in Medical Education, the premier hospital-based faculty development program in the country. Graduates have gone on to be Dean for External Education at HMS; Director of GME at BIDMC; an education expert for Google; a major education role at a medical school in NJ, chief of thoracic surgery at BIDMC, and more.
  • The Office of Education Research supports quantitative and qualitative studies of the best approaches to teaching and learning.
  • The Continuing Medical Education course called “Principles of Medical Education: Maximizing Your Teaching Skills” has enhanced the knowledge and skills of more than 2,000 medical educators from around the world over the past 15 years.
  • The Education Scholars Program tailors faculty development to the schedules and needs of busy clinician-teachers.
  • The Career Development Program provides a series of opportunities from senior residents and fellows to junior faculty to seasoned clinician-teachers to continue to grow and develop as medical educators.

As for navigating a new future in medical education in the midst of a pandemic, the Institute is embarking on a strategic planning process for medical education and research in the next year and planning how best to grow its simulation programs to include a focus on communication skills, interprofessional training and “in-situ” simulations that bring the learning to the patient care areas throughout the medical center. The team is also working on ways to enhance diversity among BIDMC’s residents and faculty and to support pipeline programs to increase the number of minority students and residents coming to BIDMC.

“The pandemic highlighted the importance of the mission and values of the Shapiro Institute, which has been a leader in medical education and faculty development for the past 25 years. The pandemic only highlights how important fulfilling our mission is,” said Schwartzstein.

About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,800 physicians and 36,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.