Home arrow Interview arrow Prof. Elisabeth Armstrong, MD
Prof. Elisabeth Armstrong, MD PDF Ispis E-mail
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Ada Barić   
Saturday, 02 February 2002
armstrong        STUDMEF: We know that you are here for a short time, but please introduce yourself and tell us your impressions about Zagreb and our Faculty.

     O :
After only one day…let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Elisabeth Armstrong. I am an assocciate professor in pediatrics, director of medical education Harvard Medical International. I have been the director of medical education at medical school during the time of the curriculum reform from 1985 untill just recently. My background is in medical education + curriculum design. Impressions are that, after only one day, of course, the faculty that we've met are very eager to have some reform occur, that they are committed to excellent teaching just as they are committed to excellent patient care. Our team has been very impressed by their level of interest in looking at new models, which is why we've brought our colleagues from Germany to share ideas with you from the Munich reform so that you have the opportunity to see both of the reform activities in Munich as well as those that have occurred at Harvard. At the same time, the students we've met were, as you know, just delightful, very talented, eager to be very well educated. That is not a surprise because I think medical students worldwide have chosen a career for good reasons and you are devoted to become excellent physicians, so of course you want the best possible education

     STUDMEF: We know that your colleagues have visited us previously this year. What kind of cooperation between Harvard professors and our professors has resulted in your arrival this time?

     O :
You know that I personally was not a part of that team this spring and the only reason that the leader of that team, dr. Aretz, has not been able to come back this time was because he's had surgery. We have, together with your Dean, developed a needs-assessment to describe some of the background of your university and some of your strenghts that reveal, at least a starting point for the reform. As a result of this trip we hope to begin to develop an action plan with you.

     STUDMEF: Your goal here is to develop a workshop for curriculum innovation and development. What is the main goal of your visit?

     O :
There are several goals. One is to draw faculty into the process of planning a new curriculum. So, I began on one of my talks yesterday, by asking the faculty to identify the qualities of the physician they would like to go to, here in Zagreb. That is my way of inviting a faculty into designing a curriculum that would result in a product that represents the qualities they are interested in having for the physician of the future. My goal was not to come here and say there is a model curriculum either in Boston or in Munich, but to say there are ways to think about how you design a model curriculum for your institution and to get the faculty to think about what it is they want to bulid. So, my purpose is to help your faculty think about the goals of the new curriculum, potential strategies or methodologies that could be used in the new curriculum and thirdly, how they would evaluate their new curriculum. Our team's role and hope for this workshop is that the process of curriculum development has moved a few steps along so that we can begin to take some action steps together following this workshop.

armstrong        STUDMEF: Tell us something about Harvard Medical School curriculum: how often does it change and what are the qualities and disadvantages of your way of work?

     O :
First I can say, a good curriculum is never finished. When you think about that statement, it really means that the students are always changing, society is always changing, science is always changing so we cannot make the assumption that because we create a plan now, once it's launched, it's finished. You must always keep revising and refining and updating. This work is never finished

     STUDMEF: What are the main perimeters when you are making a change in your curriculum?

     O :
There are several principles that guided our curriculum change. It's goal focussed in 3 categories: knowledge, skills and attitude. One of the goals is to be able to offer students a knowledge base that is broad, that is deep and that is flexible. At this point, there is no possibility to cover all the knowledge that is available. The second goal is related on helping the student learn how to become a learner, because you will be a learner for life. We need, as a part of medical school curriculum, to ensure that you begin to practice habits and skills associated with findind new information, solving problems, being critical thinkers. The third goal was related to attitude and that reflects a need for compassion towards patients. What should be built into our curriculum and we believe it is, is an ability for students to develop the values associated with being that compassionate healer.

      STUDMEF: How do your teachers collect all the information from the students and how do they know that that information is based on some fair judgement?

     O :
All the courses are evaluated at the end that includes the evaluation of the course, the syllabis, the cases, the tutors, the lectures. That information is delivered back to the tutors and the course directors so they can use that information in refining the next version of the course. There are also committees that look at the overall program and make decisions not only about several courses, but looking at the whole theme, the structure of how the courses are designed. We have evaluations on individual course level but you also need to look at the whole curriculum and that is left to the curriculum committee. Students are also included in these committees and they are reviewing what changes are also needed.

armstrong        STUDMEF: What kind of impact do the students have to change a part of curriculum in a short period of time and is it always necessary for a few years to go by before a change is made?

     O :
In our school the student's voice is very important. Because they are meeting with tutors in very small groups, they have the opportunity to share a lot of their ideas on one-on-one and we take very seriously their comments to the tutors as well as their comments on the evaluation forms. During the four years with us, they are not able to see all the changes implemented because they are in program for a short period of time. It takes a year to change a course and by that time they are onto the next year. But, it is strongly felt by them that the work they do to contribute to the reform is benefiting the students who will follow them. Students have to trust that the faculty has taken them seriously and the faculty need to act on it

      STUDMEF: Thank you for your time.

     O :
You're welcome and I wish you enormous success. We look forward to working with you.


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