Teaching the Teachers

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On April 25, 2019, UVM Assistant Professor of Radiology Adam Ulano, M.D., hosted his first-ever session teaching medical students. His charge: Introduce the first-year class to neural imaging techniques as part of the Neural Science course. Ulano already had an interest in education and the aptitude for teaching and mentoring; he’s the director of the neuroradiology fellowship program at UVM Medical Center. But many questions bubbled up as he considered the task at hand. How do you design an effective session for first-year students? What should they be learning ahead of time to prepare? How would he know his instruction was meeting course objectives effectively? As he worked through all of these questions, a team at the Larner College of Medicine was behind him every step of the way. From instructional designers and IT experts to mentors and collaborators, Ulano – and every faculty member who teaches throughout the curriculum – has the opportunity to draw on the expertise of professionals dedicated to helping them succeed. Follow Dr. Ulano through some of the key moments as he prepares for his first session in the Larner Classroom:

Adam Ulano, M.D.

March 29, 2019
Teaching Academy Mud Season Retreat

At this annual faculty development event for faculty across the Larner College of Medicine, Ulano attended sessions on a range of medical education topics as well as perused research posters from his peers. This year’s event included a track dedicated exclusively to designing and implementing active learning sessions. The College’s Teaching Academy hosts the retreat as a way to bring educators together, share knowledge and best practices, and foster new collaborations.

Adam Ulano, M.D.

April 2, 2019
Independent Learning Prep, Ed Tech Space

With help from IT professionals well-versed in the nuances of audio technology, Ulano donned headphones and sidled up to a microphone in a sound booth to record a voice-over for slides he created as part of the independent learning material for his session. The College’s EdTech team – co-located with the Teaching Academy and Dana Medical Library as part of the Larner Learning Commons - hosts workshops and help hours for faculty interested in using the sound booth and a host of other tools and software. After Ulano wrapped up his recording, he posted the narrated slide deck for students to review ahead of his session.

“It's a different way of learning,” he says. “Instead of memorization or reading a book chapter, the narration makes it more interesting, and adding questions to it makes it more interactive.”

Adam Ulano and Karina Lopez
April 4, 2019
Instructional Design, Active Learning Office Suite

“The Active Learning Team welcomes you. We are here to help.” This whiteboard message greets all faculty who walk in to the active learning office suite, and Ulano says his partnership with instructional designer Karina Lopez, M.A., M.S., lived up to the promise. She made sure the session tracked with goals for the Neural Science course and gave him guidance on material selection. The Six-Step Active Learning Design Process the College created makes it easier for experiences to be replicated across the curriculum.

“She found book chapters that were relevant to the session and had a reading list for the students all prepared,” he says. “I put the PowerPoint slides together, and Karina made sure that the content was appropriate and was related to the objectives of the session.”

In consultation with Neural Science Course Director Deepak Gupta, M.D., Lopez and Ulano landed on case-based learning as the best modality for the neural imaging session. This meant identifying clinical cases that would be level-appropriate for first-year students. Lopez put together a timeline that made everything come together at the right time, important for a faculty member who spends the bulk of his days engaged in patient care.

“She was flexible and accessible, which was so helpful,” says Ulano.

Adam Ulano, M.D.

April 12, 2019
AAMC Medical Education Research Certificate Workshop, Reardon Classroom

With over 100 publications, numerous awards and more than a million dollars in educational research grant funding to his name, University of Michigan Professor of Medical Education Larry Gruppen, Ph.D., is a national leader in the field. In April, Ulano had the chance to attend a workshop with Gruppen through the Association of American Medical Colleges Medical Education Research Certificate Program. As a member of the Teaching Academy Fellowship Program, Ulano is expected to complete a medical education project over the course of the year. The session with Gruppen, which was open to all of the current Medical Education Fellows, is one of many moments when he was able to refine his approach to teaching. “[The fellowship] has been helpful to talk about how to have an impact on students and approach education in this modern era of medicine,” he says.

Adam Ulano, M.D.
Adam Ulano, M.D.

April 25, 2019
Introduction to Neural Imaging Techniques, Larner Classroom

A black-and-white image of the brain flashes on screens around the room as students in small groups confer. A 75 year old man has presented in the ED with a worsening headache.

The groups work through what test to order, how to read the resulting image, and how to manage the patient moving forward.

Some questions require more time than others: As the groups choose between possible answers, their responses are recorded through an electronic clicker to show how many are in agreement. If all of the groups answer correctly, Ulano moves on. Disagreement requires a deeper dive. Questions bubble up organically; Ulano circles back to key concepts before moving on.

Overall, his first foray into teaching medical students went well. “The feedback that I've received is that the students liked the cases, they liked the format, they liked the questions,” he says.

He’s already thinking about how to improve for next year, aided by feedback from a member of the Teaching Academy who sat in on the session. Ulano says he’s looking forward to honing the session over time and staying engaged with students.

“A lot of us went into medicine because we're inquisitive and we want to help human beings,” he says. “As people get further along it can become harder to hold onto some of that initial enthusiasm. It's nice to go back to it.”