Health Professionals For a New Century
November 30, 2010
Remarks at the launch celebration of The Commission Report, Health Professionals for a New Century, Transforming education for health systems in an interdependent world.
Hosted by: Harvard School of Public Health in cooperation with The Lancet, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the China Medical Board.
Introductory remarks for Panel 1: Transformative learning for systems-based reforms
Thank you, and welcome to our session this morning.
I am delighted to be here and honoured to join three distinguished panelists who will address an issue at the core of the Commission’s work — Transforming the Learning Process.
Let me say at the outset that our session owes an intellectual debt to all the commissioners, to many distinguished scholars who advised the commission, and to the young professional group who kept our eyes on the horizon. I must also say that our co-chairs put in an extraordinary effort as did an extraordinarily talented staff led by Catherine Michaud.
The purpose of this Symposium is to launch the Commission Report in the best way we know – with a vigorous exchange of ideas. And I hope this initial panel will do just that.
Outline of the session:
After a few brief introductory remarks to set some context, I will introduce this morning’s panel members who will do the heavy lifting.
Each panelist will have five to seven minutes to respond to my remarks and a couple of ice-breaker questions that I will pose to each in turn. Then there will be a ten minute intra-panel discussion.
The remaining half hour of the session will be devoted to audience questions and discussions. I will bring the session to a close and may try to summarize the discussion.
Today’s healthcare environment is not only in rapid flux. It is also very much the domain of experts and specialists. Fashions come and go in health professional pedagogy, and in health-related public policy. The waves resulting from the latest set of reform proposals, in turn, are usually dissipated as they either crash against the rigid barriers erected by modern guilds and regulatory bodies, or are channeled and redirected by the machinery for public or private provision of healthcare.
Some of us accordingly did ask when the Commission was being developed: Is it worth another go? The answer, obviously, was a resounding Yes. That answer was not driven by naïve idealism. Collectively, the commissioners have a lot of educational and policy-related scar tissue. We were motivated instead by a sense of the urgent need to respond to rapidly developing trends and powerful forces in health and healthcare, trends and forces laid out so clearly by the co-chairs in their opening session.
I also want to emphasize at the outset the congruence of the panel’s thinking with many of the outstanding reports that have been published on health professional education in recent years. We make no apologies for repeating and amplifying some existing themes of educational transformation, as well as elaborating on those themes and, I believe, introducing some new ones.
With that, let me turn to the rather weighty title of this panel, ‘Transforming the Learning Process’.
The necessary directions of change in the learning process, I believe, are easy to see. For example, no one imagines in the 21st Century that a health professional should be simply an expert technologist with a narrow skill-base.
In that regard, let me turn back to the three-compartment model of the learning process that, while dramatically over-simplified, is arguably helpful.
- Informative learning is about acquiring knowledge and skills; its purpose is to produce experts.
- Formative learning is about socializing students around values; its purpose is to produce professionals.
- Transformative learning is about developing leadership attributes; its purpose is to produce enlightened change agents.
Putting these concepts together in a professional curriculum is very hard work, but has never been more important.
For example, we live in an era when factual information is so readily available from digital sources, and when the knowledge base for professions is changing at breakneck pace. Unfortunately, rote learning of time-bound trivia is still commonplace in many professional programs.
I earlier mentioned specialization. With so many distinctive competencies within and among different professions, it is banal to highlight the need for a team-based ethos of collaboration in health protection and promotion or in healthcare delivery. The optimization of health is increasingly about networks, not hierarchies. In that regard, it is arguable that part of the transformative training for health professionals is as much about followership as leadership.
Last, consistent with the broad thrust of the Commission report, I want to emphasize that a simple three-compartment model does not directly address the issues of context responsiveness and inter-dependence. I expect that the panelists will have more to say about all these issues and so, without further ado, let me introduce my colleagues.
It is a pleasure to be joined on this stage by three individuals of such remarkable erudition and distinction.
I recognize that these brief sketch-introductions cannot come close to doing their careers or their contributions full justice. Nonetheless I’ve kept each introduction between 140 and 150 words.
David Serwadda (Commisioner)
David Serwadda is a Ugandan physician, researcher, educator and administrator. He is renowned for identifying the “Slim Disease” in Uganda as AIDS in 1982 – at a time when he was a medical resident and very little was known about the disease.
Together with a small group of colleagues, Professor Serwadda established the Rakai Health Sciences Program in 1988, with its headquarters in a “Bar-Girl Hotel” and with the Ugandan civil war spreading around them.
Over the next 18 years his team conducted critical research into the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa with global impact.
Professor Serwadda was educated at the Makerere University School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.
He is the past Dean of the Makerere University School of Public Health and currently Professor of Public Health.
Afaf Meleis (Commissioner)
Dr. Afaf Meleis is one of America’s most renowned nursing leaders. She is Professor of Nursing and Sociology and the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. She is also Director of the School’s WHO Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership.
A distinguished scholar, Dr. Meleis is the author of more than 150 scholarly articles; 40 book chapters; and numerous books – among them, several award winners.
She is also acclaimed for her teaching which concentrates on the structure and organization of nursing knowledge, transitions and health, and international nursing.
She has mentored hundreds of students, clinicians, and researchers from around the world.
She graduated from the University of Alexandria in Egypt, earned an MS in nursing, an MA in sociology, and a PhD in medical and social psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Joseph Kolars (non-Commisioner)
Joseph Kolars became the first Senior Associate Dean for Education and Global Initiatives at the University of Michigan’s Medical School last year.
In this role, Dr. Kolars leads Michigan’s efforts to adapt and enhance the full spectrum of medical training with a view to maximum global impact.
Dr. Kolars is a gastroenterologist and Professor of Medicine. For the past several years, he has also shared his time with the Mayo Clinic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he works on education systems that will build human resource capacity to transform health.
His research focuses primarily on medical education, in particular on educational outcomes, the metrics of competency, faculty development, effective learning venues, and global health initiatives.
Dr Kolars obtained his M.D. degree in 1982 from the University of Minnesota Medical School and then completed his gastroenterology fellowship training at Michigan.
Professors, thank you all for joining us today.
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