As a teacher I strive to help students understand, grasp, and evaluate information to be able to think critically, communicate effectively and compassionately, and understand context.
Critical Thinking
For future population health management, medical students need to investigate and understand behavior change theories and how to apply those to patient interactions. Students can use theories and critically think how best to use the theories in motivational interviewing to help patients overcome barriers to practicing healthy behaviors. I challenge students to look at theories to see where flaws may be and what may work better. I ask students to look at their own behaviors to develop a deeper understanding of ways to improve their own health behaviors. Finally, I want students to question their own assumptions and preconceived biases and ultimately, I encourage students to join in scholarly debate around topics at hand.
Communicate effectively and compassionately
Therapeutic relationships can improve patient outcomes according to research; furthermore, positive communication skills can improve those therapeutic relationships. When considering communication, only 10% are the words we say, the rest are non-verbals: eye contact, smiles, tone of voice, touch etc. Using the classroom to explore compassionate communication may improve not only the future therapeutic relationships with patients, but also strengthen the students’ personal relationships. As Maya Angelou said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”; and compassionate and positive communication may help people feel better.
Understand context
The social determinants of health are the context of which I am speaking. Helping students understand for patients, it is not always about “personal responsibility” to find ways to improve their health. For example, it is important for the students to learn that it is very hard for some patients to “just go for a walk” when they do not feel safe in their neighborhoods. Or that a life-course of stress caused by discrimination based off race, religion, or gender may have lasting impact on health. Understanding the impacts on patients’ lives outside of personal responsibility and critically thinking about the best ways to support a patients’ health and compassionately communicating with patients are important issues.
Teaching Style
As a past student of theater, I am a people watcher, I observe and analyze non-verbal communication throughout my classes to help me evaluate the level of understanding of the students. Looks of confusion, boredom, and disengagement cue me to probe the students to find the source of their perplexity or I may get them out of their seats for a brief stretch in hopes to wake up their minds so then they can re-engage with the material. I try to make my classes and presentations approachable and engaging.