March 28, 2011

New teaching track for health professionals

For health professionals, the classroom is a familiar place; most undertake six to 11 years of post-secondary education on the path to becoming doctors, nurses, research scientists or public health practitioners.

They know blood structure, disease variables and human anatomy, from the skeletal to the nervous system. But can they effectively teach these subjects to the next generation, incorporating the latest in medical advances and field studies?

This fall, Johns Hopkins will launch a new master’s-level program aimed at training health professionals to excel in the classroom as much as they do outside it.

The Master of Education in the Health Professions program, a unique collaboration of five Johns Hopkins divisions, will train professional educators from schools and training programs related to the health professions.

The two-year program, which will be hosted by the School of Education and enroll its first students this fall, was co-created by the schools of Business, Education, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health.

John Flynn, a member of the program’s executive planning committee and an early champion for such a degree, said that there were previous attempts to offer such a program at Johns Hopkins, but none ever got past the planning stage. Flynn, who is the William Schlott Professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine and clinical director of the Division of General Internal Medicine, said that the School of Medicine had intended to launch its own program in 2009, but the scope became greater when the effort was joined by leaders at all five schools.

“In developing this program, we have broken down the university silos like nothing that has gone before to make something uniquely Johns Hopkins,” Flynn said. “We are very proud of that, and it’s a sign of what can be accomplished when we work together.”

Emphasizing problem solving, innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration, the MEHP is designed to prepare health professionals for teaching roles through evidence-based scholarship and practice to navigate a rapidly evolving educational landscape. The program will target educators and educational researchers in the health professions who want a high-quality, part-time learning experience with direct application to their work environment.

The initial cohort of 40 students will primarily be faculty and researchers at the Johns Hopkins schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and other local universities. The courses will be team taught, co-facilitated by an expert in education and one in the health professions.

The program will be offered in two segments: an 18-credit graduate certificate, which can be taken as a stand-alone curriculum, and a master’s-degree track that builds on the certificate’s foundation.

The one-year graduate certificate will focus on preparing health professionals to teach effectively. The six courses are Adult Learning, Evidence-Based Teaching, Assessment and Feedback, Curriculum Development and Instructional Strategies I and II.

For participants choosing to pursue a full master’s degree, the second segment of 15 additional credits offers two tracks, one in educational leadership and one in educational research, with room for customization through electives. In each concentration, participants will work for a year with a mentor or adviser to develop, implement and write about a capstone project applying knowledge, skills and dispositions acquired throughout the program.

In its first year, the MEHP program will be offered in a face-to-face format with classes held in the evening on the East Baltimore campus. In the second year of delivery and beyond, the certificate and full master’s degree will be offered in an online format, with residential requirements, to attract a national and international audience. The enrollment will double to 80 students.

Both the certificate and the master’s degree will be conferred jointly by the School of Education and one of three schools: Medicine, Nursing or Public Health, depending on the participant’s professional field, if applicable.

The School of Education’s Toni Ungaretti, MEHP program director, said that the need for such a degree arose from rapid curricular changes occurring in many health professions schools, the recent expansion of schools and training programs intended to address health care workforce shortages and the fact that health professionals are increasingly recognizing the importance of the educator career path.

“Many are already excellent educators, but they recognize the need to be formally trained to advance both their expertise and the scholarship of teaching and learning in their respective fields,” said Ungaretti, an assistant professor and assistant dean for assessment at the School of Education. “These are people who like to be the best at what they do. The integration of the expertise of five Hopkins schools will uniquely position this program to achieve that end.”

The program will be priced competitively and will accommodate Johns Hopkins participants by permitting tuition remission benefits to be applied. It will be singular in its focus on evidence-based teaching and skill-building in educational scholarship.

Lisa Heiser, assistant dean for faculty development in the School of Medicine, said that in order to be promoted as educators, some faculty need more support in developing skills for conducting educational research.

“They need and want to produce original scholarship related to teaching, and that is something this program will help them become adept and confident at,” Heiser said.

Anne Belcher, director of the Office of Teaching Excellence at the School of Nursing, said that Nursing’s primary audience for the MEHP program will be part-time faculty.

“I think they will be intrigued by the interdisciplinary experience that this new program offers,” said Belcher, an associate professor in the Department of Acute and Chronic Care, who co-chaired the MEHP curriculum committee. “They might know the content but not how to teach it efficiently. With this program, they can better understand evidence-based teaching strategies. Also, being an educator is more than being a teacher; it’s accepting a leadership role.”

Flynn said that in the past some Johns Hopkins faculty had sought out health education degree programs at schools such as the University of Cincinnati, University of Illinois and University of Southern California. Faculty could also seek pieces of education training at Johns Hopkins schools, such as courses on quantitative analysis at the Bloomberg School, leadership programs at the Carey Business School and yearlong training at the Faculty Development Program offered by the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

“It was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle,” Flynn said. “This new program will bring together all these pieces and offer them in one place and for all health professionals.”

Applications for the program are now being solicited. For more information, go to