Embarking on a Journey of Discovery: Developing Transitional Skill Sets through a Scholarly Concentration Program

Kara E Sawarynski, Dwayne M Baxa, Robert Folberg
Teaching and Learning in Medicine 2018 September 14, : 1-12

PROBLEM: Medical student participation in research enhances appreciation of the scientific literature and the conduct of investigation, and may lead to an interest in academic medicine. Independent medical student research offers frequently overlooked opportunities to develop and assess professional practice abilities, including project design and implementation, interprofessional team communication, and time management. These skills, useful to physicians, are often challenging for medical students to master as they transition into clinical careers. To address this challenge, we designed and embedded interventional modalities into a highly mentored and longitudinal scholarly concentration component of the curriculum.

INTERVENTION: The Embark scholarly concentration program incorporates traditional research training with the development of professional practice skills essential for transitioning to clinical practice. The program includes individualized and just-in-time components enabling student access to information and feedback specific to their projects and development of professional practice skills.

CONTEXT: The Embark program is a required longitudinal component of the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine undergraduate medical curriculum. The Embark program consists of courses that inform and facilitate a required longitudinal independent research project.

OUTCOME: A retrospective evaluation of the Embark program's success with development of professional practice skills through the lens of both faculty and student perceptions included analysis of project records and course evaluation feedback. Evaluation of individual student development of transitional skill ability is possible through both quantitative and qualitative analysis of data collected from student project records. More than 80% of course evaluation commentary on strengths of the program addressed activities related to professional practice skills. To systematize the evaluation of these data sources, we have piloted a framework, iSAIL, designed to assess student development in these skills during the planning and conduct of a research project.

LESSONS LEARNED: By developing professional practice skills in the context of a scholarly concentration program, medical students can build a foundation for future engagement in research while they develop skills to overcome challenges that they are likely to encounter in their clinical careers. Modalities designed to evaluate individualized student development of professional practice skills through research participation define program successes and may lead to the identification of additional resources needed by students. By offering medical students opportunities to develop professional practice skills within the protected environment of an independent research project, this scholarly concentration program provides a valuable opportunity to influence the early development of skills necessary throughout their clinical careers.

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