Medical Education

David Milling, MD, is senior associate dean for student and academic affairs in the Offices of Medical Education, and associate professor of internal medicine.

Jennifer Meka, PhD, is director of the Medical Education and Educational Research Institute, associate dean for medical education, and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Behavioral Medicine.

By David Milling, MD, and Jennifer Meka, PhD

Medical education is both art and science and requires the intentional application of evidence to deliver an excellent program. The goal of medical education extends beyond supporting students in mastering essential knowledge and skills; it seeks to develop future physicians who serve our communities, advocate for patients, are leaders in research and health care, and provide outstanding patient-centered care.

In 2018 we relocated to our new building, which provided us with space to infuse more active learning, including a beautiful state-of-the-art clinical competency center and simulation center. These centers provide a safe environment where students can develop their patient-interviewing and procedural skills.

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced myriad challenges for our existing curriculum. In the first two years of the curriculum, our faculty and students were able to transition to remote formats. Faculty quickly learned new tools to engage learners while students modified their approaches to be successful learning in a primarily online environment. Despite the lessons learned with this transition, the importance of hands-on educational experiences remains paramount. With this in mind, our faculty and staff instituted safety protocols that allowed for the anatomy course and lab experiences, along with clinical-skills instruction and related practice sessions, to continue in person.

In the clerkships, the need to transition to a remote experience for core content gave us the opportunity to re-examine what is most important for each specialty. Once students were able to safely re-enter the clinical environment, they participated in immersions that focused on the clinical aspects of the clerkship. Faculty and residents reported that they found students to be more engaged and autonomous during the immersions.

While the pandemic has introduced unanticipated challenges, it has also presented us with unexpected opportunities to collaboratively reimagine the future of medical education at the Jacobs School. We’ve found unique ways to incorporate technologies to enhance student learning and to connect (virtually) in new and different ways with experts within the UB community and around the world. Further, we are beginning to identify what content is essential and needs to be learned early in training versus what is best learned within clinical settings.

The most essential innovations in medical education and the most needed changes in the practice of medicine won’t come from the exploration of science alone or the teaching of the art of medicine. They will come from learning with and from each other—with our local community, health care systems, and across the university. They will come from embracing challenges and intentionally pursuing unique opportunities for collaboration.

As we look to the next 25 years, we recognize that the practice of medicine will be more dependent on teams of professionals caring for complex patients and patients with multiple chronic conditions. In addition to preparing our students to deliver high-quality patient-centered care, we must focus on developing our local communities’ trust in the health care system. This means helping our students develop the skills necessary to promote and advance social justice and equity.

Medical education in the future will require more emphasis within the classroom and clinical environment on the application of artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, population and community health, genetics, and lab sciences.

The future presents vast challenges and tremendous opportunities. Through deliberate planning and collaboration across the university and within our local community, we look forward to educating the next generation of physicians and physician scientists who will be leaders in our evolving health care systems.