The Harvard Macy Program for Postgraduate Trainees: Future Academic Clinician-Educators was a pivotal experience in my professional development. I participated in the program while I was as a first year fellow-in-training in medical toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. At the time, I was a recent graduate of an emergency medicine residency where I had served as a chief resident and was embarking on a career in clinical research. As a fellow-in-training, I also functioned as an emergency medicine attending at the large academic medical center. As such, I was teaching medical students and residents on a daily basis but had never received any formal training in education myself.
During my time at the Harvard Macy Program, I received invaluable instruction on educational models, effective teaching methods, delivery of content, and the development of a project. I came to the course seeking to create a simulation curriculum to teach effective opioid prescribing to emergency medicine residents. As an emergency medicine physician, I prescribed opioid medications for pain on a regular basis. However, I had never received any formal training on opioid prescribing and was acutely aware of the growing mortality from opioid overdoses. Aside from published guidelines, there was a paucity of formal educational training available regarding prescribing of opioid medications. My goal was develop an educational curriculum for residents regarding safe and evidence-based opioid prescribing. The Macy Program helped me focus on how I was going to evaluate the impact of my program on the learners and create a plan for publishing my findings.
The small group workshops transformed my idea from an educational project into a research grant. During our meetings, I was encouraged by my small group leader to look into sources of funding to support a research assistant and statistician. I spent the next week researching funding mechanisms and decided to apply for an award that focused on the prevention of prescription drug abuse. Two months after the program, I submitted the small group project I had developed during the course as a grant proposal to the Medical Toxicology Foundation. In the spring, I was notified that I was the recipient of the inaugural 2014 Medical Toxicology Foundation Research Award in Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention for $5,000.
The education project I developed in my small group at the Macy Program has evolved into a nearly complete grant funded research project. The curriculum was delivered to the emergency medicine residents at the University of Massachusetts last winter. Data collection by my research assistant is complete and I am currently in the process of analyzing the results to assess the impact of the curriculum. I presented the curriculum as an oral abstract at the American College of Emergency Physicians annual meeting in Boston, MA, and intend to submit the entire project for presentation at the American College of Medical Toxicology’s Annual Scientific meeting this spring.
I have now completed my fellowship training and am in my first year as a faculty member at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. In addition to preparing me to be a grant-funded education researcher, the Harvard Macy Program provided me with a framework for my daily interactions with trainees in my new position as a junior faculty mentor. The mentorship, training, and networking I gained from participation in the Harvard Macy Program have been instrumental in my professional development.
Editor’s Note: This blog is part of a new series entitled “Harvard Macy: From Boston Back Home” in which we will feature stories of the evolution of scholars’ projects after completion of Harvard Macy Institute courses.
Dr. Katherine Boyle is a clinical instructor in Emergency Medicine and a medical toxicologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. Her interests are in the primary prevention of opioid abuse and opioid mortality reduction. Follow her on twitter at @klboyle9.