By Elizabeth Dwyer Sandlin
UNM’s Joanna Fair helps promote holistic principles of physician education
What makes a good doctor? Certainly, a successful academic career can provide insight, but how do you measure other important qualities, such as leadership, curiosity, or compassion?
These are the questions asked by admissions and selection committees that aim to bring a holistic perspective to the application review processes for their medical schools and training programs.
As part of these efforts, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) launched the Advisory Committee on Advancing Holistic Principles, on which Joanna Fair, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for higher medical education ( GME) at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, was recently asked to serve.
The committee is made up of “a group of university leaders from across the country at various levels. Some may lead undergraduate medical education (UME) programs, some may be professors or deans,” Fair said.
Holistic principles for UME admissions have been in place for some time, and UNM has long been at the forefront of holistic review of medical school applications.
“I have to say a lot of good things about UNM colleagues, like Dr. Marlene Ballejos and Dr. Robert Sapien, and the work they’ve already done at UNM at UME,” Fair said. “Dr. Ballejos has been instrumental in helping us facilitate workshops for our GME colleagues, sharing the work they have done for years. ‘UNM are not just numbers, like grades or test results.
While several of UNM’s GME programs were early implementers and have built a strong foundation in holistic review, AAMC has only recently developed a Holistic GME Principles Toolkit, which addresses recruitment and selection of residents and fellows. Going forward, Fair and his colleagues will work to ensure these resources are further integrated into GME’s selection processes.
When the AAMC called for new members to join the Advisory Committee on Advancing Holistic Principles, one category they identified was those who serve as residency program directors or designated institutional leaders. (responsible for higher medical education). Recognizing the importance of this work, Fair wanted to be directly involved in the team further developing these principles and tools at the national level.
Reviewing an application holistically includes looking at the whole person – their experiences, attributes, skills, and metrics. Metrics are the easiest, numbers on tests and their GPAs, while evaluating experiences and attributes are trickier. This is where what matters to a specific program comes into play, as well as the overall institutional mission.
“For us, it is obvious to recruit new Mexicans, because it is extremely important to provide a health care workforce for communities in New Mexico,” says Fair. “It’s easy to select in apps. But what if what matters to you is resilience, as an attribute? How do you take the 2,700 applications received by internal medicine this year and filter and sort them to find who has the most resilience? How to operationalize this process so that it is applied fairly and appropriately? »
That number, 2,700, seems high, but GME programs can receive hundreds or even thousands of applications, and there may be only a few people overseeing the review process. These limited resources can make the prospect of holistic selection processes rather daunting.
“It’s certainly easy to pick a number or a rating and say, ‘OK, we’ll just throw out everything below that,'” Fair says, “but we recognize that’s not really a valid means of reviewing applications. There is so much more to consider about what makes a good doctor or practitioner of the XYZ specialty.
Understanding how to implement these principles is a challenge, as they are different for each specialty. Programs should “look at this toolkit and determine what works best for their program,” Fair says. However, there will be common themes, and by sharing across programs and institutions, “we can continually improve our processes.”
Rather than a static, one-size-fits-all enterprise, learning how best to implement the tools is an ongoing process. Dr Fair believes part of the committee’s role will be to receive and incorporate feedback as more GME programs approach selections holistically and refine their approaches.
All of these factors inspired Dr. Fair to get involved with this committee, not only to further shape the implementation toolkit, but also to learn from other committee members and bring that knowledge back to the GME selection processes. at UNM.
“I’m really grateful to have been cast in this role,” says Dr. Fair. “We have so much to offer UNM, as a unique educational environment with perspectives that are not always part of the big national committees. I appreciate having a voice at the table and am excited about the work ahead.
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