More than 20 new medical schools have opened in the United States in the last 10 years, including a dozen in the past five years alone. And more are on the way.
As manager of the UMKC School of Medicine Office of Student Affairs, Cary Chelladurai understands some of the unique challenges student affairs leaders will face in establishing and maintaining their own departments.
Chelladurai has been working with the Association of American Medical Colleges since earlier this year, sharing its Professional Development Initiative program with other medical school student affairs associate deans, department managers and supervisors.
The AAMC is made of up of all 151 accredited medical schools in the United States and 17 in Canada. In 2016, the national organization’s Group on Student Affairs crafted the Professional Development Initiative to support its members’ student affairs offices.
After attending the AAMC’s first professional development workshop at a national meeting in 2016 and participating in subsequent webinars, Chelladurai implemented the program’s tools at the UMKC School of Medicine.
“We used them with restructuring our office,” said Chelladurai, who has served in her current position since 2012. “We’ve used them with rewriting job descriptions and, being short-staffed, deciding what duties are most important. It’s a framework and a tool that helps us figure that out so we don’t have to do it from scratch.”
Last February, the AAMC asked Chelladurai and a colleague at the University of Alabama to serve as subject matter experts on the program and present it to others at medical schools across the country. The two teamed up to present the material to about 30 student affairs leaders at the AAMC’s national conference in April.
They began offering a series of three online virtual classroom video conferences earlier this summer. The series provides interactive and collaborative discussions and personalized case studies that explore challenges that student affairs departments have faced. The first online video conference took place in July with following sessions slated for September and October.
The entire program highlights eight specific areas of focus for student affairs offices. It also provides a support network for making programs relative in a changing environment and to help student affairs professionals realize their own potential and career fulfillment.
“We’re talking to our colleagues across the country, telling them how we have personally used this program and giving them ideas about how they can use it at their own medical schools,” Chelladurai said. “It’s helpful to the new medical schools that haven’t developed their student affairs departments yet but they’re in their planning stages. They can use it to make sure they have someone covering all the areas of focus.”
It’s also beneficial to more established student affairs offices that are working to find new and better ways to serve their student populations.
“This information and the tools are free and they’re online, so even if a school can’t afford to send someone to a conference, they can benefit from these tools,” Chelladurai said. “That’s one of the good things about the virtual classroom series. They don’t have to travel. We’re teaching this to 25 of our colleagues across the country. They just need to tune in for a couple of hours three times and they’re getting the professional development instead of spending the money and time travelling to a conference.”