Michael E. Cain, MD, speaks during the inaugural Medical Education and Educational Research Institute Conference in March at the Jacobs School.

Inaugural MEERI Conference Showcases Learning’s Future

Published May 12, 2020

story by bill bruton

The inaugural Medical Education and Educational Research Institute (MEERI) Conference continued the ongoing effort on evidence-based teaching and learning as the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences plans for a redesigned curriculum format.

“It was an exciting and inspiring time to have people come and learn about the best practices in education and ways that we can be implementing those practices at the Jacobs School. ”
Assistant dean for medical education and director of the Medical Education and Educational Research Institute

Attendees Shown Educational Advancements

One hundred people took part in the March conference titled “Honoring Our Past and Looking to the Future,” which took place at the Jacobs School building in downtown Buffalo. It included workshops, discussion groups and guest speakers.

“We had a great mix of people — faculty, residents and students from the Jacobs School and faculty from many different programs and departments,” says Jennifer A. Meka, PhD, MEERI’s director and assistant dean for medical education. “It was an exciting and inspiring time to have people come and learn about the best practices in education and ways that we can be implementing those practices at the Jacobs School.”

Improvements to Curriculum Highlighted

The goals of MEERI — which launched in March 2019 — are to foster the skills of medical educators and to promote scholarship in medical education, career advancement and recognition, as well as peer support.

“The impact that Jennifer has had, along with our education deans, members of the Offices of Medical Education, our faculty and all of you who are here, have allowed us to spend the last year learning better how to educate,” Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, said in his introductory remarks at the afternoon portion of the conference. “The opportunities to use the expertise we have here to devote a full two years to redesigning and transforming our medical school curriculum and to help transform and redesign our graduate student education curriculum will make us all better educators.”

Those goals were evident at the conference.

“The first goal of the conference was for us to begin to come together as a community of educators. We had some time together to reflect on what we’re doing and learning new ways that move education forward — whether it’s clinical teaching we’re doing in the classroom, or clinical skills instruction to prepare medical students and residents, even mentoring a junior faculty member,” Meka says. “There are so many ways that we can be using important educational strategies and principles to have a greater impact, and this conference was a way of starting those conversations.”

Work of Faculty, Staff Recognized

Two morning workshops sessions — each with three workshop offerings — were led by faculty, residents and staff from the Jacobs School.

“The feedback on those sessions was outstanding. It really goes to show there is so much amazing work that our faculty are already doing,” Meka says. “Being able to highlight and recognize them and giving them an opportunity to share their expertise with our community was really nice. People were stopping me in the hall and saying ‘I went to this session in the morning and it was outstanding.’ Yes, it’s exciting to have internationally known people come and give these talks and to share their experiences, but it’s also nice to be able to recognize the talent that we have here.”

Rochester Native Provides Keynote Speech

David A. Hirsh, MD, the inaugural George E. Thibault Academy associate professor and director of the Harvard Medical School Academy, gave the keynote speech on the six points of educational science.

“I’ve had a lot of great joy traveling around giving education talks, but there is no greater joy, for sure, than returning home,” said Hirsh, a Rochester native who had relatives in attendance for his speech. “This medical school is a great enterprise that actually thinks about education science as being the underpinning for the work we do.”

Hirsh spoke of the importance of longer-term retention of knowledge, rather than just memorizing facts.

“Cramming does work for a short time. Students should cram for tests, if the test score matters,” Hirsh said. “But it is not the same as learning, or holding it into the future.”

Guest Speakers Discuss Educational Challenges

“A lot of things that Dr. Hirsh talked about during his speech, our faculty and residents are already doing in their teaching — they just don’t know the science behind it or why it works,” says Meka, who coordinated the conference with Lisa L. Zander, MEERI program administrator. “The more awareness we have of what those evidence-based principals are — and why they work — the more we can be intentional about putting them into practice.”

“That was one of the other goals of the conference, to help people better understand what some of the evidence-based learning principles and practices are, and to give our educators the opportunity to reflect on the things that they could do themselves,” Meka adds.

Hirsh and the other guest speakers — Hilliard Jason, MD, EdD, clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Colorado Denver and co-founder and director of educational affairs at iMedtrust, and Nicole Woods, PhD, scientific director of the Institute for Education Research and education scientist and associate professor of family and community medicine at The Wilson Centre at the University of Toronto — spoke on educational challenges during an afternoon session. Hirsh and Woods also conducted afternoon workshops.

Participants from the Jacobs School who conducted workshops were: