Medical Education, Med Ed Fellowship Director Interview Series

Medical Education Fellowship at Brown University

The EMRA Education Committee is excited to bring you the Medical Education Fellowship Director Interview Series, which will allow Medical Education Fellowship Directors a platform to describe their fellowship program, highlight different medical education career paths, and provide resources for potential fellows. 
If you are a MedEd Fellowship Director interested in submitting a profile on your program, please email EducationCtte@emra.org.

Medical Education Scholarship Fellowship at the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University

Director: Chris Merritt, MD, MPH, MHPE
Title: Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine & Pediatrics
Institution: Department of Emergency Medicine at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Social Media Tags: www.brownmeded.org, @chris__merritt

Tell us about you and your program.
Our program's philosophy is to create a network of colleagues, collaborators, mentors and teachers around each fellow with the goal of positioning our fellows to achieve their educational and professional development goals. Rather than fit a fellow into a program, we work to build a program around the individual's identified needs and goals.

Medical education at Brown focuses on understanding, opportunity, mentorship, and scholarship. Fellows are fully privileged faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brown.

Our 2-year program is built around 4 pillars:

  1. Building a background in educational understanding: To achieve this, we offer a fully-funded master’s degree in medical or health professions education. Fellows can choose from among dozens of programs, finding a graduate program that meets their needs. We find that the combination of didactic learning gained through the master’s degree process provides a broad base upon which a career in education can be built. Our most recent graduate completed the MEHP program from Johns Hopkins. Brown's program mentors work together with graduate program leaders to align the goals of fellowship with the goals of graduate work. 
  2. Opportunities to teach: There is no shortage of opportunity here at Brown. Because our faculty and colleagues have connections across the entire spectrum of medical education, our fellows are afforded the chance to dip their toes in the water at any level, from undergraduate university students to ongoing professional education with experienced faculty, and everywhere in between. Fellows have participated in the preclinical doctoring course at Brown’s medical school, taught in the EM clerkship and pre-residency boot camp, developed residency curricula, and been on the planning committee for the Program in Educational Faculty Development – the medical school’s professional development arm for educators. In addition, fellows have taught at regional and national conferences.
  3. Scholarship: Scholarship may take many forms, from dissemination of newly developed curricula to scholarly application of educational evidence to primary education research in the health professions. Within the Department of Emergency Medicine, the Education Section is an active network of educators and education scholars cooperating in regular collaborative efforts. Fellows have access to this body of shared expertise and mentorship with BrownEM, and to the broader community of educators throughout the institution. Whether fellows seek support in traditional research, or opportunities to engage in more non-traditional scholarly pursuits such as podcasts or digital health, we will build a program that meets their professional development goals. 
  4. Mentorship: One of the greatest joys as an educator is to engage in the sort of mentorship relationship that our fellowship offers. Our faculty are dedicated to engaging with fellows, identifying individual and shared goals, and helping to build the personal learning networks that we hope can enrich not just a fellowship program but an academic career.

How did you get involved in medical education, and what is your career path that led you to your Fellowship Director position?
I’ve been drawn to education since medical school, but it wasn’t until I joined the faculty at Brown that I realized that it could become such a significant part of my career. I started by directing a month-long rotation for EM residents. I got to know every EM resident in our program on a 1:1 basis, each over the course of a month, which remains one of my most memorable and fulfilling roles as an educator. It was then that I recognized that if I were going to really pursue med ed as an academic niche, I would need to strengthen my foundation. Through a faculty development grant, I was able to pursue a master’s degree in health professions education, during which time I recognized the importance of mentorship and sponsorship. The mentoring relationships I developed then have stood to this day, and the network of educators and colleagues I began to build have strengthened over time. I’ve had roles in education across the spectrum – directing a short course for preclinical medical students, running a residency rotation, spending time as a residency director, and planning and teaching in Brown’s faculty development program. I currently am a longitudinal mentor to more than 30 medical students at Brown, which has been a whole new adventure! Through my role as fellowship director, I hope to help new faculty find this same joy through education and education scholarship.

What are the benefits to completing a fellowship in medical education?
More and more, education is becoming professionalized – and by this I mean that learners and program leaders have begun to expect that their education leaders have a deeper understanding of the many facets of education, including education theory, education scholarship, and leadership. The “see one, do one, teach one” mantra no longer applies. By identifying education as a niche, fellows signal that they have sought this deeper understanding. Fellowship provides the protected time to really sink your teeth into all the aspects of what it means to be an educator within emergency medicine. Graduates go to the head of the line when it comes to seeking faculty jobs, leadership positions, and other opportunities. Simply put, a med ed fellowship is a short investment in a long career.

Does your program have a particular niche within medical education or unique aspects potential fellows should be aware of?
We’ve prided ourselves on building individualized programs for each of our fellows and helping each of them build the career they desire. We don’t try to shoehorn anyone into a one-size-fits-all approach.

What are the different career paths that fellowship graduates from your program have taken after graduation?
Our fellowship grads have been really well-positioned to take on leadership roles in medical education, from sitting on residency committees, medical school curriculum committees, all the way to positions in the medical school Office of Medical Education and even deans!

A sample of positions/titles held by our graduates:

  • Director of clinical skills training (4-year longitudinal “doctoring” course)
  • Chair of AAMC’s Northeast Group on Educational Affairs
  • Chair of AAMC’s Group on Educational Affairs national Grant Award Program
  • Assistant Dean for advising, Program in Liberal Medical Education
  • Course leader
  • Chair, SAEM Education Research Interest Group

What advice do you have for residents who are just starting to get involved in medical education, especially residents who may not have a lot of resources at their own program?
Be on the lookout for opportunities to be involved! Medical schools in particular often love to have residents on board as clinical skills teachers or mentors. Volunteer or campaign to represent residents and trainees on hospital or university committees – graduate medical education committees or senates, for example. Seek opportunities within your own program – maybe there’s a rotation curriculum that needs to be revamped? These local curricula can even be shared and presented at regional or national meetings. Is there a residency committee that needs your voice? Elective time might be an opportunity to learn simulation or another med ed skill. And look to your national organizations – EMRA, of course, but CORD, SAEM, ACEP all have resident sections and committees, and many have state or regional arms that might just be looking for a voice like yours.

What qualities does your program look for in potential fellows?
We really look for a passion for teaching – of course! – but also for individuals with a vision for how their passion for education can contribute to both their own careers and to the community of academic emergency physicians. I love to see people’s eyes light up when they talk about their hopes and aspirations, and how they see a Med Ed fellowship as a step toward the future they hope for.

What is the application and interview process like at your program (ie, application requirements, timeline, match process, participation in CORD universal offer day)?
The application is pretty straightforward – we ask for a letter of intent, a CV, and three letters of reference. These can be sent to me and our fellowship coordinator, Wendy Wesley (wendy.wesley@brownphysicians.org). 

We’ve historically invited applicants to come visit us and interview in the fall – typically in October. We love the chance to show off our city – trust us, if you’ve never been to New England in the fall, it’s amazing. Providence is a great little city, with so much more to offer than its size might suggest.

We’re hopeful that we’ll still be able to bring folks to us to interview, but travel may be tricky depending on how the COVID pandemic progresses – we’ll be offering virtual interviews as well.

The CORD universal offer date was met with mixed reviews last year – we’re definitely involved in the conversation about how it will evolve for the coming year. Med ed fellowship directors met at CORD this winter, and we continue to stay up to date with that dialogue!

What are your thoughts on the value of a master’s degree in medical education? Does your program require it or accommodate fellows who want to pursue one?
A fully funded master’s degree is built into our fellowship program. We believe that this has high value in establishing the foundation of understanding medical education theory and practice, as well as in helping fellows develop a wide-reaching personal learning network and a robust professional identity as an educator. A master’s degree program helps augment the mentorship relationships we form with fellows. The combination of formal education in health professions education plus the components of the fellowship program itself is really a win-win. Together, this helps us develop education leaders.

If a resident is interested in getting to know more about your program, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Please reach out to me directly! I’m always happy to share everything great we’ve got going on at Brown. I can also put prospective fellows in touch with alumni of our program, faculty, or others who might be helpful.

cmerritt@brown.edu
@chris__merritt on Twitter
brownmeded.org

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