A Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education brings together scholars from across the globe annually in April. In this blog post, we interview Louis Pangaro, MD, course director of the program, to explore his experience teaching the course throughout the years.

Harvard Macy Institute: How long have you been a course director? What compels you to continue teaching the course year after year?  

I have co-directed A Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education for 14 years. I enjoy leading the course with co-directors Dr. Lauren Germain and Dr. John Dalrymple. There continues to be a real benefit to educators to grapple with how assessments at their institutions fit into the big picture and align with their goals and overall mission. Each year, I am excited to work with and build lasting relationships with scholars from around the world who come to our course as learners. 

Harvard Macy Institute: How has the course evolved over the past 17 years?  

As the need for health professions educators to serve their communities and countries is constantly changing, we always adjust the topics of our plenary sessions and selectives to stay current with evolving trends. For example, in recent years we have highlighted a competency-based approach that assures readiness of our learners for eventual practice. Each Harvard Macy scholar works on an institutional project and develops an action plan best suited to address the opportunities and challenges within their own context. 

Harvard Macy Institute: Because of the pandemic, the course was held virtually for several years but is now moving back to a live, in-person format. How does the format change the way the course is implemented?  

In-person sessions have an immediacy and immersive quality that everyone appreciates, and scholars are not pulled into tasks at home. Although virtual sessions allow participation for people who cannot travel to Boston, the hours of online sessions require a different rhythm to each day's work. One format may work better for some scholars than the other. Given the collaborative and experiential nature of this program, and the important networking and relationship-building that occurs between scholars and faculty during the course, after thoughtful consideration we decided to return to the live in-person format. Our number one priority is to support and engage our Harvard Macy scholars, so we will continue to adjust course formats to best serve the needs of our community and stakeholders.  

Harvard Macy Institute: In a previous blog post, you were highlighted for your important work in developing the RIME (Reporter Interpreter Manager Educator) conceptual framework for assessment. How do you integrate that framework into A Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education?  

In the course we explore the reporter-interpreter-manager-educator framework (RIME) as one available to scholars to use across levels of training and in many professions. A framework serves to clarify what faculty think is important, and it can guide both instruction and assessment. There are shared principles across all frameworks about what readiness for independent practice in a health profession looks like, and different frameworks offer different degrees of detail. 

RIME advanced the concept of a synthetic framework useful for looking at the roles and tasks of clinical practice, with an explicit developmental aspect. For example, Milestones and Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs) also use these ideas, they just provide more granularity; this is useful for populating the dimensions of performance within a simpler overarching framework like RIME. It is up to faculty to decide what level of granularity works for their system. 

Harvard Macy Institute: Among the myriad of learning opportunities that are offered to health professions educators, how does this course stand out? 

This course stands out in how it builds participant confidence that assessments are all aligned with their own institution's mission and goals and that they support program evaluation, ongoing quality improvement, and meet accreditation standards. Our 'institutional project groups' include just a few scholars working together with faculty in small collaborative groups over the week so each person gets a lot of individual attention. Our faculty are experienced and highly invested, and we offer selectives to support individual interests and one-on-one consultations.   

We work hard on applying established principles and available research to the needs in one's own institution. We help place the curricular elements into a coherent big picture, giving each Harvard Macy scholar clarity in expectations, helpful feedback, and trust in how assessments are combined into grading. Lastly, the network of support and the international interdisciplinary community of practice truly stands out at the Harvard Macy Institute.  

Check out our A Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education course website for more information!

Did you know that the Harvard Macy Institute Community Blog has had more than 365 posts? Previous blog posts have interviewed scholars including Katherine Chartier, Charles Charman, and Karina R. Clemmons.

Louis Pangaro, MD

Louis Pangaro, MD (Course Director, A Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education) is Professor of Medicine and Health Professions Education at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. Lou’s areas of professional interest include assessment, curricular reform, and faculty development.