Having recently attended the Harvard Macy program for medical educators, I cannot help but be inspired and filled with ideas. The course itself is probably the most intense course I have taken, with workshops and lectures occupying the day and then readings and homework lasting until midnight each evening.
The breadth of the course is certainly well suited to me – it covers the spectrum of designing and implementing change in modern medical education delivery. Perhaps on another level, it fit well with my nickname on some committees: “Squirrel”, referencing the dog in the movie Up – somewhat distractible by shiny new ideas.
One of the greatest things about the style of the course is that you are actually living the content. I took away many techniques that I could use in my everyday teaching. Even with a twist of irony, we had discussions about ‘cognitive overload’ while we, too, were bordering on being overwhelmed. I am thinking that I thrive on this level of intensity!
On the last day of the course, we were told a brief story to ponder (apologies for the paraphrasing): your family takes its dog to the park and allows the dog to jump in the pond. Emerging from the water, the dog’s instinct is to come close to his loved ones before shaking the water off. The loving family’s instinct however is to back away. The point being made was very clear: do not go back to your home institutions and suffer from “Wet Dog Syndrome.” The compelling argument spoke well to me: I typically am an ‘ideas person’ and thrive on the sharing of ideas. My first instinct would have been to return home and dump the contents of my head upon colleagues. This thought of the ‘wet dog’ at the end of the course however really made me reflect on what sort of approach I would take to implement new ideas. Armed with a battery of negotiation and change management techniques, I am searching the mountain of ideas to see what might make a good fit.
The integration of the faculty into the curriculum itself (i.e. in small groups) really facilitated the dissemination and application of knowledge – interestingly more like colleagues sharing. This course provided many of us with precious ‘protected time’ to reflect on our own needs and to plan for the future. I suspect that many of those attending felt similar excitement and shared in many ‘Aha!’ moments – linking learning to application in their home institutions. These moments would provide great impetus to return and share. The sage advice to avoid being a ‘wet dog’ hopefully will tether the speed of dissemination and force a more thoughtful reflection on how to bring these ideas to fruition. For me, ultimately, I am still reflecting and occasionally inserting some of these new ideas more insidiously. To this end, I am very much looking forward to the return for the second part of the course in May – it will be very interesting to hear from everyone regarding their own dissemination progress!
Keith Wilson, MD., Ph.D
Dr Keith Wilson is Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Chair of Assessment at Dalhousie University Medical School. He received his medical degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland and PhD in Psychology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He has a keen interest in all areas regarding medical education with more focus on assessment. Follow him on Twitter @keefer007.