Visiting Professor speaker focuses on curricular changes in medical education

John Mahoney, M.D., M.S., associate dean for medical education at the University of Pittsburgh, was the first Dean's Visiting Professor speaker at the School of Medicine on Jan. 15.
John Mahoney, M.D., M.S., associate dean for medical education at the University of Pittsburgh, was the first Dean’s Visiting Professor speaker at the School of Medicine on Jan. 15.

All across the country, medical schools are experiencing the same thing, according to John Mahoney, M.D., M.S., associate dean for medical education at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. National organizations such as the American Medical Association and other outside forces are converging to promote new ideas and changes to what medical education looks like.

On Jan. 15, Mahoney presented at the School of Medicine  as the first speaker in the Dean’s Visiting Professor Lecture Series. In his remarks, he shared thoughts on today’s medical education making broad changes in curriculums on a national scale.

“There are enough forces now calling on medical education, the house of medicine, to look at ourselves critically and understand, are we doing the best possible job for our students and for the country, that it really has been put upon us to take a look at ourselves and ask ourselves before someone else asks us, ‘how are we doing,’ ” Mahoney said.

A leader in curriculum advancement, Mahoney has been instrumental in updating how his school provides medical education. He had a part in designing Pittsburgh’s integrated medical clerkships. He is also recognized for spearheading methodology and content changes that have enhanced the curriculum and has developed innovations in simulation, public health preparedness and technology.

All of that is part of the nationwide push for innovations in medical education to meet today’s health-care needs. These changes are expected to help better train medical students to meet not only the current demands, but the future challenges of a changing health-care system.

An issue impeding such progress, Mahoney said, is the factor of the unknown. With impending change of leadership at the national level and the possibility of changes in health-care laws, Mahoney pointed out that no one knows for certain where the country’s health-care industry is headed financially or philosophically.

“Curricular change is very difficult if you don’t know where you are going,” he said.

Change will be a continuous process, and Mahoney outlined a number of factors that will play into the evolution of medical education.

He presented steps for medical school leaders to take in updating their curriculum with educators looking at and understanding the desired outcomes of their curriculum. Additionally, they must be willing to learn from others and be open to new and different ideas.

“Everything around us is changing. Medical education has to change, too,” said Mahoney. “If I know where I want to go, and understand the desired outcomes, I stand a chance of getting there.”

UMKC School of Medicine Dean Steven Kanter, M.D., established the Dean’s Visiting Professor Lecture Series to bring distinguished speakers to the school. The new program explores important issues in academic medicine and health care.

“This gives us an opportunity to interact with someone who has expertise in the area of academic medicine. We can talk about new ideas, share best practices, discuss common problems,” Kanter said in introducing the lecture series and Mahoney, his long-time colleague. “It is also opportunity for prominent members of the academic medicine community to learn about us and the great things that are happening at the UMKC School of Medicine and the health sciences campus here.”