Becoming a Better Teacher: My Year as a Simulation Fellow

D. George Ormond, M.D.
D. George Ormond, M.D.

After two years of surgical residency, I knew I had to become a better teacher. The title “doctor” originates via old French from the Latin, docere, meaning “teach,” and my instructor responsibilities were ever increasing. Also, as my seniority within the residency grew, I would be responsible for developing and implementing a resident learning curriculum, and the recent designation of Western Connecticut Health Network as a branch campus of the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine ensures a steady supply of young, intelligent minds to mold.

Between the second and third years of the surgical residency at Danbury Hospital, residents have the opportunity to do research for one year. A brief respite from clinical duties, I aimed to become a better teacher. Thanks to our connections with UVM, I enlisted as an American College of Surgeons Simulation Fellow at the Clinical Simulation Laboratory (CSL), joining Tess Aulet M.D., a UVM surgery resident also completing the simulation fellowship.

The first step of the simulation fellowship, recently accredited by the American College of Surgeons, focuses on educational theory. The CSL runs a two-day faculty development course emphasizing educational theories such as Kolb’s experiential learning cycle and Knowles Adult Learning Theory. After testing out our knowledge by creating simulations for others in the course, we attended the Comprehensive Instructor Workshop at the Center for Medical Simulation in Boston. One of the premiere simulation centers in the country, we received further exceptional instruction and fostered connections with simulation instructors from around the world.

Over the year, our group participated in a number of simulations both at the Larner College of Medicine and within the UVM Medical Center. The surgery resident learning experiment included working with a virtual reality laparoscopic surgery trainer, as well as designing and implementing an entire surgical simulation curriculum – including simulated bowel anastomosis, abdominal opening and closing, and operating room emergencies, among others. From gun shot victims, to pediatric emergencies, to Mr. Potato Head® professionalism simulations, we did them all. Working with nearly every department, it became clear how many passionate educators we have at the Larner College of Medicine and UVM Medical Center.

The UVM Larner College of Medicine Teaching Academy was a great resource during my year as a simulation fellow. Under the guidance of Dr. Kathryn Huggett, this group works to support and develop teachers by facilitating educator development, encouraging educational scholarship, and promoting the value of educators. This supplemented the already long list of mentors I was developing throughout the CSL, Larner College of Medicine, and UVM Medical Center. Dr. Pat Forgione, Dr. Jesse Moore, Dr. Bridget Marroquin, and Dr. Cate Nicholas were among the many faculty mentors encountered throughout the year. It seemed I could take a teaching lesson from every faculty member with whom I crossed paths.

The year culminated with the International Association of Medical School Educators annual meeting hosted by UVM. From the poster presentations to the plenary speakers, everyone was exuding passion for medical student education. With the Larner College of Medicine currently transitioning its curriculum to one focused on active learning, the conference – with a theme of evidence-based medical practices – was at the perfect venue. The conference concluded with a gala at the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. Watching the magnificent sunset, I was able to reflect on this inspirational year, including the educational understanding I have gained and many new friends I have made.

After the fellowship, I return to Danbury Hospital very much a changed person. A few more mountains hiked, slopes skied, and craft brewers sampled, I hope to share the knowledge and passion for education I have gained with my future learners.

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