Our Program for Educators in Health Professions course brings together scholars from across the globe annually. To better highlight our community, we decided to profile a number of our recent scholars. In this blog post, we interview Elvira Lang, founder and CEO of Comfort Talk®, training frontline medical staff in advanced rapport skills, nonpharmacologic analgesia, and rapid hypnotic techniques.
Harvard Macy Institute: How would you describe your personal and professional background?
Elvira: I am an interventional radiologist; I do surgery on awake people by use of image guidance. This means that I must deal with patients' fears and anxieties appropriately in order to make everything safer. I engaged in research regarding how to help ease patients' anxieties and I learned about various communication techniques and skills. Then I started to create my own trainings on how to communicate with patients and what language should be used to calm their anxieties during operations. Now, I have set up my own company to train medical staff how to talk to patients and make them feel much more comfortable and at ease.
Harvard Macy Institute: What led you to apply to this program?
Elvira: It first started when I was division chief of interventional radiology. We started to investigate the impact of training our research staff with these communication skills aimed to ease patient anxieties. That is when I started to consider how to assess the quality of teaching and how to teach effectively. I actually approached Liz Armstrong at the time, and she recommended I take the Program for Educators in Health Professions course.
Harvard Macy Institute: How would you describe your overall experience in the course?
Elvira: The course faculty were incredible. There are still some teachings from the course that I will revisit every half year or so to refresh. Additionally, the people you meet and the experiences that you have with them are life changing. Harvard Macy Institute courses truly foster an international community, which is invaluable. It is also helpful now as I navigate more into the digital realm. Liz and other faculty members have truly changed and shaped global medical education for the better. The teaching methods have been so applicable to my career, and I have even brought some of the techniques I learned during this course into medical leadership within the Netherlands. I am tremendously grateful for my experience, as the course was very inspiring, affirming and impactful.
Harvard Macy Institute: What are the two most important takeaways from the Program for Educators in Health Professions?
Elvira: One thing that I found valuable was learning that the adult attention span is about ten minutes. This is important because as a medical professional working to adapt communication skills to focus more on the patient's experience, this is a timeframe we must work within. Another skill that I found very important is to have the audience that you are teaching to be able to vocalize the learning objectives. I will never forget one session where it was demonstrated how you can direct the audience’s discussion in a way where the learners are able to gather all of the learning objectives by themselves.
Harvard Macy Institute: How was this course applicable to your work in health care?
Elvira: I would not be doing what I am doing now without taking the courses. They really made a huge difference, and I might not have ever set up my company without its teachings. The course content really changed the trajectory of my research and shifted in a way where the educational aspects became one of the main components of it. The courses subsequently helped me pursue further education at Harvard Business School, where I took the Advanced Management program. After that, I started to take steps to set up my company. All of this was able to happen though because I took the Program for Educators in Health Professions courses.
Harvard Macy Institute: Would you recommend the course to others? If so, why?
Elvira: Taking this course is one of the best things I could have ever done, so I would absolutely recommend it. This course has something that can be applicable to everyone. In the moment, you never know how impactful these learnings can be and what they can lead to, and it ended up being incredibly important in the trajectory of my career.
Check out our Program for Educators in Health Professions course website for more information!
Did you know that the Harvard Macy Institute Community Blog has had more than 350 posts? Previous blog posts have interviewed scholars including Page Carter, Michael Ditillo, and Alvaro Garcia-Romero Perez.
Elvira Valentina Lang