Amit Kandel, MD, MBA.

Amit Kandel, MD, MBA, has been recognized by the American Academy of Neurology with its 2024 Clerkship Director Innovation Award. He is pictured in the Behling Human Simulation Center within the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Neurology Educator Honored With AAN Innovation Award

By Dirk Hoffman

Published May 10, 2024

Amit Kandel, MD, MBA, associate professor of neurology, has been honored by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) with its 2024 Clerkship Director Innovation Award.

“Our focus on pragmatic, value-added teaching ensures that all UB students become highly competent clinicians. ”
Associate professor of neurology and clerkship director in the Department of Neurology

The award recognizes individuals who have developed unique tools to teach medical students, to assess knowledge, and benchmark progress.

Special consideration is given to those individuals who are using new technologies; finding new ways of engaging medical students; and who can demonstrate that their techniques have either increased students’ knowledge of neurologic principles or have increased the number of students entering post-graduate training in neurology, according to the AAN.

Created Program of Simulated-Based Instruction

Kandel, who directed the clerkship in the Department of Neurology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences from 2019 to 2023, was honored in part, for his use of facilities in the school’s Behling Human Simulation Center.

In his nomination letter in support of Kandel, Gil I. Wolfe, MD, Irvin and Rosemary Smith Professor and Chair of neurology and SUNY Distinguished Professor, said that he implemented a “revolutionary innovation of our clerkship by taking advantage of the newly established Behling Human Simulation Center at our medical school.”

“Shifting away from traditional didactic classroom sessions, Dr. Kandel created the NeuroSims workshop that emphasizes simulation-based instruction,” Wolfe said. “NeuroSims provides medical students the opportunity for hands-on neurological examination and procedure skill development in what can be a daunting clinical specialty.”

“By integrating student interactions with live volunteers and simulated patients, students’ comfort in handling neurological emergencies such as acute stroke or status epilepticus, and performing procedures like lumbar punctures has been significantly enhanced.”

Tools Found to be Overwhelmingly Effective

Kandel said winning the award filled him with immense pride, “especially because it underscored the critical importance of teamwork.”

“The simulation project required extensive preparation, but it was executed superbly thanks to the unwavering support from the staff at the Behling Human Simulation Center, neurology attendings, and neurology residents. It truly felt like an award for the entire team,” he said.

Kandel accepted the award at the AAN’s 2024 annual meeting April 13-18 in Denver, Colorado.

Kandel said in addressing the unique challenges of neurological pedagogy, the Jacobs School implemented innovative tools and approaches in its teaching.

“Firstly, there’s a significant gap between the demand for neurologists and the supply,” he said. “We cannot bridge this gap immediately, so our focus is on equipping all medical, nursing and other health care students with the skills necessary for competent neurological assessments and evaluations.”

“Additionally, we confront the issue of ‘neurophobia,’ where students enjoy the neuroscience module but struggle to apply this knowledge practically in clinical settings. This challenge stems from traditional, somewhat rigid methods of teaching neurology.”

To counter that, Kandel designed a half-day basic neurological examination and management workshop at the simulation center.

The first part of the workshop is dedicated to teaching the optimal methods of conducting neurological examinations, either on high-fidelity mannequins or standardized patients. The latter half of the workshop focuses on team-based problem-solving using common and practical clinical scenarios.

To assess the effectiveness of the tools, a series of surveys with the students involved was conducted.

Kandel said the results were strikingly positive — indicating that just a half-day simulation workshop significantly enhanced the students’ skills and confidence in conducting neurological examinations and managing common clinical situations in neurology. A pragmatic and value-based approach to neurological education is one of the remedies for neurophobia, he noted.

“We shared these encouraging findings at the AAN annual meeting in Denver, and I am currently in the process of drafting a manuscript to further disseminate our results and methodologies,” he said.

Adaptable Skills Across Global Settings

Kandel said he finds teaching medical students deeply rewarding because it has a broad impact on skills.

“We equip students not only who are pursuing neurology or neurosurgery, but also those entering various other specialties, with practical neurological skills,” he said. “As a result, UB students are exceptionally well-prepared to manage patients with neurological issues, regardless of their chosen specialty, thanks to our comprehensive training.”

“Our focus on pragmatic, value-added teaching ensures that all UB students become highly competent clinicians. Being a part of this transformative educational process is extremely gratifying.”

Kandel also noted the curriculum and techniques crafted at the Jacobs School are highly adaptable across various global settings.

“This adaptability is invaluable, as it allows for the replication of these programs in developing countries, where there is an urgent need for neurological expertise.”