In 2019, IU School of Medicine launched Scholarly Concentrations. To help students decide if a concentration topic is the right fit, concentration co-directors shared the inside scoop—from why they got involved in the concentration to how a specific topic can help students reach their goals.
Introduce yourselves. Who are you and why did you decide to become involved in this Scholarly Concentration topic?
Kara Garcia, PhD: As a biomedical engineer and visiting assistant research professor of anatomy and cell biology at the IU School Medicine-Evansville campus, I am passionate about solving real-world problems in health care. In every industry, it is crucial to increase efficiency, improve quality and lower risks. Health care is no exception! I am also part of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, which focuses on accelerating research that will have a direct impact on clinical care or public health. By training a generation of clinicians in quality improvement, I think we can dramatically improve healthcare in Indiana and beyond.
Steven Becker, MD: Quality, safety, and innovation have been part of my professional clinical practice for the past 30 years and are import in my role as associate dean and director of the IU School of Medicine-Evansville campus. I have a deep understanding of the critical need to prepare the next generation of physician leaders so that they can help transform health care delivery into a higher quality, lower cost system.
Tell us about your experience related to the concentration topic.
Garcia: A key focus of our Scholarly Concentration is applying both creative and data-driven approaches to real world problems. Engineers, scientists, and physicians do this every day. In addition to research, I have worked on small industry projects across the spectrum of quality improvement and innovation. These projects include improving wireless recharging for an implanted device, assessing the need for a new clinical tool and evaluating the efficacy of a new product.
Becker: In my years as a radiologist, I’ve worked with multiple health care systems’ quality and safety programs. I’ve experienced firsthand how these programs, when led by influential, knowledgeable physicians and staff, can improve patient care and outcomes. These systems also enable hospitals and offices to run more efficiently and use resources more wisely.
What are you most excited about in regards to Scholarly Concentrations and your concentration topic?
Garcia: My favorite part of our topic, Quality and Innovation in Health Care, is that it provides students a toolset that can be used in any specialty throughout their careers. While cutting-edge technology and scientific innovations are important in medicine, we sometimes overlook the impact of simple, practical solutions that improve quality, safety, and efficiency of health care. Whether the problem is general or highly technical, all projects will apply the same principles of innovation, data analysis, and continuous improvement.
Becker: I’m so excited to present this program to future physicians because an understanding of health care quality and innovation is a crucial factor in becoming a leader in the medical field. Now, more than ever, healthcare systems must work smarter and leaner to remain profitable and viable. This concentration gives knowledge that our students can carry with them and reference throughout their entire careers.
What are a few important or interesting things students should know about this concentration?
- This concentration is unique in that it is team based, and coursework is integrated directly with your project. For this reason, students need to set aside eight weeks (summer between first and second year) where they can fully immerse themselves in their project and coursework. Students should also plan to spend some time wrapping the project up during the remaining years of their clinical training.
- By the end of their project and coursework, students will earn Lean Six Sigma certification, which has value for residency applications but is also recognized as being valuable outside of medicine.
- Because students will be working with teammates across the health care spectrum, it is an excellent opportunity for interprofessional and multidisciplinary collaboration.
How is this concentration beneficial to a student’s personal and professional goals?
As previously mentioned, students will leave our program as Green Belts in Lean Six Sigma, a credential that will set them apart from their peers. More importantly, they will gain problem-solving skills and insights that they can carry with them throughout their careers and will be valuable in any medical specialty.
Some students may have a hard time deciding which concentration to choose. How can a student decide if this topic is the best fit for them?
If you are bothered by inefficiency, waste, and ineffective or unsafe treatments, this concentration is for you. This concentration is also an excellent choice for students who aren’t sure what specialty they want to pursue since the skillset is relevant in any specialty.
What are the special resources and/or expertise on this concentration’s home campus?
The Evansville campus houses a new Simulation Center, IU Dental Clinic, and Indiana CTSI clinical research facility. All of these resources may be used for the Scholarly Concentration. Projects in quality improvement will stem from our four-hospital consortium (another unique aspect of our Evansville campus), local health department or local nonprofits. Evansville is also expanding their residency slots in the next couple of years. This program will emphasize quality improvement, allowing our students to partner with residents on scholarly work. Lastly, as a city built on manufacturing, Evansville is home to industry leaders in quality improvement. We anticipate participation and mentorship from our local business community, which will provide valuable opportunities to learn from quality and innovation experts outside of health care.
What is the academic and social culture like on the home campus?
We recently moved to the new Stone Family Center for Health Sciences, a new, state-of-the-art facility in downtown Evansville. This center houses a unique blend of medical professional programs (MD, DDS, PA, DPT, NP, OT, OTA) from multiple universities (Indiana University, University of Evansville, and University of Southern Indiana), and the theme of interprofessional collaboration runs throughout our courses and scholarly concentration.
You provided some examples of potential projects for this concentration. Can you also provide some more details and examples of what one or two different projects could look like?
Toyota (which maintains a large plant near Evansville), has offered its quality improvement expertise to several health care projects. This story about process improvement in an eye clinic provides a great example.
In past years, Evansville students have worked with Deaconess Hospital and Vanderburgh Health Department on various projects. Examples of projects with Vanderburgh Health Department could involve child mortality rates, food safety, drug abuse and mental health, home care for expectant mothers, or vaccination.