More Important Than Ever: Medical Education and Research in the Throes of COVID-19

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 18 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the medical world in many ways. In the ever-important space of medical research and education, the pandemic has re-emphasized the importance of critical thinking skills and self-directed learning, and underscored the need for a solid understanding of the underlying principles of human biology.

As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, the Carl J. Shapiro Institute for Education and Research at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has found that its work over the past several decades had prepared its faculty and trainees to become leaders in overcoming the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.

“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 unique entity within an academic medical center, devoted to the development of professional medical educators and the advancement of our understanding about the best ways 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 Flexner Report,” 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 Conference, which have brought hundreds of medical educators together to discuss critical medical education questions and to find workable solutions for challenges confronting medical schools across North America.
  • The Rabkin Fellowship in Medical Education, a leading hospital-based faculty development program in the country. Graduates of this program have become educational leaders and won numerous teaching awards at Harvard Medical School and throughout the nation.
  • The Continuing Medical Education course “Principles of Medical Education: Maximizing Your Teaching Skills” has enhanced the knowledge and skills of more than 2,000 medical educators from throughout the US and around the world over the past 15 years.
  • Providing support to students, faculty and staff to advance their careers through multiple services, including the Office of Education Research and the Career Development Program.

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 enhance patient safety, interprofessional teamwork, communication skills and procedural competency. The team is also working on ways to enhance diversity among BIDMC’s resident and faculty groups and to support pipeline programs to increase the diversity of students and residents coming to BIDMC.

“For 25 years, the mission of the Shapiro Institute has been and continues to be to support, promote, and develop innovative programs and models for the dual activities of teaching and conducting research at academic medical centers,” said Schwartzstein. “The pandemic only highlights how important our commitment to this mission is, and we look forward to continuing to serve as a leader in medical education and cutting-edge educational research.”

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.