NYU Launches Institute for Innovations in Medical Education

By Jennifer J. Salopek

NYU School of Medicine, in collaboration with NYU Langone Medical Center, has launched the Institute for Innovations in Medical Education. A virtual construct at this time, the Institute leverages an interdisciplinary team approach to address the challenges of medical education. Combining new strategies of pedagogy with educational technology and medical informatics, the Institute aims to develop a system of personalized medical education.

To shape the institute, NYU SOM drew on lessons learned from six or seven years of an intentional approach to innovation in medical education, using informatics to enable transformation. Such initiatives as C21, an integrated, radically new 18-month curriculum, and a three-year medical school program that allows students to apply for residency before entry, provided the springboard.

“Those initiatives teed us up to think very aggressively about what it means to be a medical school in 2013,” says Marc Triola, MD, associate dean for educational informatics and the Institute’s director. To structure the Institute and his mission, he says, three questions were thoughtfully considered:

  • What is the product we’re trying to produce?
  • What skills will they need to have?
  • What environment will they be working in?

The Institute brings together the disparate talents of education scientists, instructional designers, graphic artists, video and post production professionals, and operations specialists. This interdisciplinary team approach is crucial to stimulating new thinking, Triola says. “The Institute model allows us to bring together a special set of people who can consider these questions outside the traditional silos of academic medicine—UME, GME, and CME. Students are learning across a trajectory that is not clearly defined. We are consciously trying to blur those lines and bring innovation and integration across the curriculum.”

IIME Themes V2

The Institute is pursuing projects across four major lines of emphasis—educational informatics, education quality and analytics, faculty and learner development, and clinical integration—and also hopes to launch a digital press to disseminate, perhaps even monetize, the content that is created. Its activities are funded 70 percent by hard money from NYU’s educational mission, and 30 percent by grants and foundation support. The Institute has been awarded an “Accelerating Change” grant by the AMA.

All communication within NYU SOM is electronic, web-based, and asynchronous; students have had iPads for years. Although much of the Institute’s work is facilitated by technology, it’s a tool, not a driver. “Agile technology can enable transformation, but shouldn’t drive mission,” Triola says. “Further, we tend to undervalue the non-technologic solutions, such as team learning, because they’re hard to quantify.”

Startup challenges included a lack of models to emulate, says Triola, as well as creating a construct that would balance innovation and research with the service mission. “We did have a track record of proven success with our C21 and three-year medical school initiatives that allowed us to think big and broadly,” he says. “We are very ambitious about what we want to accomplish.”

A key goal is personalized medical education. Much as genomics and big data combine to form the promise of personalized medicine, educational informatics and a new pedagogical approach can revolutionize medical education.

“If we can get a lot of detailed information about the strengths and weaknesses of our students, we can create an educational genome for each of them and use that to customize what they get—curriculum, feedback, and so forth,” says Triola. “Further, we have the clinical data and integrate with the clinical mission, monitoring diseases and patient outcomes to drive teaching.”

An organizational culture of risk-taking and freedom to fail at NYU enables and facilitates the creation of constructs such as the Institute.

“Medical education is no longer about surviving on gravitas. We must be leaner, faster, thinking in a very agile way,” says Triola. “Although it’s incompatible with the traditional metrics of academic medicine, we must reward smart risk-taking. Failure is only failure if you don’t do something with your negative outcome.”

What will success look like?

“It’s not financial,” says Triola. “At the end of the day , we will be successful if our doctors have an enhanced ability to deliver care.”

Jennifer Salopek—Jennifer J. Salopek is managing editor of Wing of Zock. She can be reached at jsalopek@aamc.org or on Twitter @jsalopek.