Success Stories

We want to know how your experience in the Harvard Macy Institute community has helped you meet your goals. Let us know how you have advanced an idea, project, and even your career. Simply submit your story and let us spread the word. 

Building leadership skills -- and a lasting network of mentors 

Dr. Pierre Gagne attended the Program for Leading Innovations in Health Care and Education in June 2006 upon the recommendation of his dean and colleagues. As head of a new medical campus, he at first thought that there were better uses for his time, like planning for new clerkships and addressing the day-to-day problems he saw in the pre-clinical programss. But his colleagues assured him that the program would be valuable. "I was told again that it was useful and that I would get in return what I would invest in preparation and involvement."

Dr. Gagne, who is Associate Dean and head of the Mauricie Medical Campus at the University of Montreal, built his Harvard Macy project around the governance issues that had arisen in the management of the new medical campus. He reported that the course content -- articles on leadership and management, lectures, and discussion -- helped him become well aware of his strengths (vision, leadership) and weaknesses (quality control procedures). Having reflected over this in the months following the course, he hired an administrative assistant who shared his basic values but had complementary strengths and interests. Having identified his learner profile during one of the course's activities, he also enhanced his ability to create a solid team by recruiting people with complementary learning skills.

He also began to read more about leadership issues. "I am actually being acknowledged as a main resource for leadership issues in my medical school," he said. "My colleague (also trained at the same program) and I are initiating some basic one-day sessions on leadership issues for faculty development issues."

Dr. Gagne reported that the greatest benefit of the course was the networking. "I had the chance to meet great people who have been promoted and even offered me jobs. Having found mentors brought me major professional opportunities. Some members of our class continue to meet at the annual Harvard Macy reception at the AAMC congress. They have become very precious friends in this highly competitive environment

Expanding scholarly thinking and endeavors

Dr. Nagaswami Vasan of the New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) reports that he was promoted to Full Professor in July 2008, adding that this was the first time that a member of the school’s faculty received promotion based on educational scholarship. Dr. Vasan attended the Harvard Macy Institute’s Program for Educators in the Health Professions as a scholar in 2006, and has since returned to the program twice as a member of its faculty. His participation in the Institute was recognized by the NJMS Promotion and Tenure Committee and highlighted in letters from faculty supporting his promotion. As one letter writer put it, "Dr. Vasan’s selection and continued participation in the Harvard Macy program recognizes his ability to collaborate and mentor faculty in their educational scholarship."

Dr. Vasan commented that his continued participation in the Harvard Macy Institute’s programs has not only helped him to expand his understanding of medical education but also provided him with much needed understanding of the many facets of academia and the role of faculty in academic medicine. "I developed better skills at evaluating curriculum and programs, negotiating with colleagues and administrators, giving feedback, and recognizing the big assumption that worked against me," he said. "After collaborating as a consultant on many of the Harvard Macy scholars’ projects, I am now able to expand my own project into new areas, and embark on other new projects in collaboration with colleagues at my school. In other words, the Harvard Macy programs have enabled me to expand my scholarly thinking and endeavors."

His success and expanded scholarship have also increased expectations of Dr. Vasan. At NJMS he is now involved in faculty development, serves on the Academic Policies and Program Committee, and was recently appointed Chair of the Preclerkship Committee.

A career-changing experience

Dr. Marta Badilla, Professor of Internal Medicine and Nephrology at Universidad Mayor in Chile, came to Boston for the 2008 Program for Educators in the Health Professions. Although she was surprised that the course got underway without the scholars introducing themselves, she soon found that the course was "an experience" with a great degree of collegiality. "We started to get to know each other during the different activities, which were never with the same people. I started to recognize other scholars and after a short time we were nodding and saying "Hi!" to each other, getting together for our brief lunches, helping each other on topics that we didn’t know very well, exchanging e-mails, and so many other things," she writes.

Dr. Badilla was told that a previous Harvard Macy scholar had come from Chile, and made plans to contact her upon her return home. That simple bit of networking led Dr. Badilla to a meeting and exchange of common experiences that would eventually result in her being offered "the best job in my life."

Today Dr. Badilla is in charge of the nephrology module for second-year students and interns. She writes that the module is very innovative, adding, "And the students’ feedback is excellent, which has generated interest from other fellow teachers to adopt other ideas and leave the typical ‘conference’ class. This is just the beginning."

Multidisciplinary group brings focuses different perspectives on common challenges  

In 2005, five faculty from the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) attended the Program for Educators in the Health Professions with the goal of designing interdisciplinary modules emphasizing the importance and efficacy of interprofessional collaboration in delivering high-quality patient care. Drs. Preetha Basaviah, Carrie Chen, and Shieva Khayam-Bashi represented the UCSF School of Medicine. They were joined by Dr. Rosemary Plank from the School of Nursing and Dr. Sharon Youmans from the School of Pharmacy. Together these five educators sought to create an innovative inter-professional curricular program, which would bring together students in the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy for training in collaborative patient care. They hypothesized that collaborative learning in the classroom and clinical settings would facilitate inter-professional teamwork, resulting in improved patient safety and outcomes.

This Interprofessional Task Force is now a formal group involved in planning interprofessional learning experiences and activities at UCSF. Participation in the Interprofessional Task Force and the Harvard Macy Institute Program for Educators in the Health Professions has provided them with insight and impetus to continue on their collaborative path toward improved education.

Said Rosemary Plank: "Attending the Harvard Macy Institute as part of a team that included three physicians, a pharmacist, and a nurse opened a journey into understanding health care education from multiple perspectives. Not only did this program provide an opportunity to hear, interact, and be mentored by world renowned health educators, it defined education in a new way. Viewing teaching and learning from the perspective of the multiple rather than the single profession opened a door to reviewing new ways of teaching and collaboration. Most enlightening was the effect that interprofessional communication has on professional competence and patient outcomes."

Medical educator finds "Advanced Life Support" at program

David Keegan was working on developing a new training program in child health for family medicine at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) when he attended the Institute’s 2005 Program for Educators in the Health Professions. He was also attempting to understand and address a lingering frustration with the direction of his career; he didn’t seem to be getting where he wanted to be.

"I decided to attend the program because I wanted a rapid formal orientation to medical education. I had been a clinician for more than 10 years and had been involved in educational leadership, but had little formal training in this area," said Keegan. "The program brought me up to speed, kind of like an Advanced Life Support course, but for medical education, and I was exposed to concepts of transformational leadership that have been valuable to me ever since."

In terms of his career trajectory, he found that the Institute offered a "surprisingly rapid way to look at your behaviors and identify what is working against you. My philosophy, unknown to me, had been, ‘If I’m not different, then I don’t count.’ Acknowledging that I thought this way and then radically responding to it was the major breakthrough for me at the Harvard Macy Institute."

Upon his return home, Keegan rapidly transitioned into the role he had been seeking, and is now the undergraduate academic director for family medicine at UWO.

Scholar at leadership program finds courage to "walk beyond boundaries"

For Darshana Shah, a pathology professor at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University, the Harvard Macy Institute’s Program for Leaders in Healthcare Education helped provide her with the confidence needed to launch a major initiative.

Shah, who attended the Institute in 2004, was working on developing her institution’s new Academy of Medical Educators. The Academy was designed to serve as a centralized faculty development program that would meet faculty members’ educational needs in their quest to provide the highest quality teaching to students, develop and implement new educational theories and technologies, and promote educational skills, critical thinking, and innovative approaches to teaching among medical faculty.

At the time, Shah was a course director leading the pathology course. Since then she has been elevated to section chief in pathology as well as assistant dean for professional development in medical education. The Academy, of which she is founder and chair, is in its third year, with more than 20 members, and has become a platform through which faculty members can pursue their passion for teaching with excellence.

Shah, who has returned to the Harvard Macy Institute as a faculty member since 2006, credits much of her recent professional success to her participation in the 2004 program: "My experience at the Harvard Macy Institute helped me to communicate my vision effectively, helped me to develop necessary leadership traits, and above provided me with the courage to walk beyond boundaries."

Getting up to speed and competing for resources

Stephen J. Moorman, associate professor of neuroscience and cell biology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, attended the 2004 Program for Educators in the Health Professions hoping to move forward a project focused on using internet-based videoconferencing to help students in the anatomy dissection lab.

"The Harvard Macy Institute program allowed me to get up to speed on recent literature in a variety of educational arenas, and I was able to be competitive for grant money available for medical education projects through private foundations," said Moorman. "I now maintain active, funded research programs in developmental biology and medical education research."

Program participant leads development of new medical school

The Florida State University College of Medicine was still a gleam in the eye of Dr. Myra Hurt and other medical educators in Florida when she attended the summer 1999 session of the Harvard Macy Institute’s Program for Educators in the Health Professions (then called the Program for Physician Educators), where Dr. Clayton Christensen spoke about the difficulty of effecting radical change in industries with long-standing traditions. Hurt, at the time the director of FSU’s one-year Program in Medical Sciences (PIMS), had been involved since 1998 with efforts to establish a new allopathic medical school. She calls hearing Christensen’s presentation one of the transforming events of her life.

"It was a real epiphany because I realized that we could make this happen. We had the ideal incubator for a non-traditional medical school because we weren’t restricted by the same things that prevent older medical schools from making radical curriculum changes," said Hurt. "My experience at the Harvard Macy Institute validated a lot of the ideas we were working on while trying to establish the new medical school."

In June of 2000, Florida State University became home to the first new medical school in nearly 20 years. Dr. Hurt has returned to the Institute several times to teach. 


“The programs are not only developmental as a person, leader and educator, but they enable you to be bold while realistic, experimental yet persistent, and most of all to envision large change and implement it. The continued support (both of the program faculty and new colleagues) through friendship, advice and support is a critical piece of this as well.”

Joan A. Friedland, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Chief of Medical Care Line, VAMC, Houston, TX; Associate Professor in Department of Medicine & Center of Ethics and Health Care Policy and Chair of Committee for Education Development, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.


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