Dr. Robert G. Carroll is the current Associate Dean for Medical Education and Assistant Dean for Basic Sciences Academic Affairs at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. Brody SOM is one of the 11 US Consortium Schools selected by the American Medical Association for the five-year “Accelerating Change in Medical Education” Initiative. Dr. Carroll earned his Ph.D. in 1981 under the direction of Dr. David F. Opdyke at the Department of Physiology of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Newark. In addition to bench research, Dr. Carroll has published 11 peer reviewed education manuscripts, edited one book, is a section editor for a Medical-Surgical Nursing textbook, and published “Elsevier’s Integrated Physiology” in 2007 and “Problem-Based Physiology” in 2010. In addition to many other activities, Dr. Carroll is the proud father of three children.
Can you share some of your background and how you came to work in medical education? What aspects of your background do you feel are most important to the work you do today at The Brody School of Medicine?
In college, I was a biology major, and only lacked one semester of student teaching to obtain a teaching certificate. I was always fascinated by the science of medicine, but temperamentally do not like dealing with sick people. After graduation from college, I considered becoming a high school science teacher, but instead obtained a graduate school fellowship to study physiology. This combination of science content expertise and formal training in education, augmented by exposure to how things are done at other institutions, allows me to critically evaluate how we do things that Brody School of Medicine. Throughout my career, I’ve always looked for ways to make teaching a larger part of my professional life. Gradually, the classroom became my research lab, and now 100% of my efforts are devoted to teaching, educational research and administration.
What are a few changes you would like to see take place in the current system of medical education?
One change which is overdue in medical education is an increased emphasis on personal accountability. Pedagogically, this is reflected in the development of entrustable professional activities and competencies as the outcomes of the educational process. One of the key components of self-directed learning is the shifting of all pedagogy components to the learner. We’ve made some progress with the educational formats, but have not yet fully engaged the students as partners, clarifying the obligations of the students in the educational process.
What do you believe is necessary to promote the adoption of new technologies in medical education?
In spite of (or perhaps because of) my extensive involvement with technology and innovation, I feel the adoption of new technologies in medical education must be preceded by a demonstration of a improvement in learning. For example, of every 100 new technologies now competing for a place in the broader educational and training environment, perhaps five will last. A 5% success rate makes it very difficult to know which ones deserve an early investment in time, training and resources. Technology alone is not an ‘improvement’ – it has to enhance the learning process.
Could you share some of the most important changes, initiatives and/or goals of Brody SOM as it relates to medical education?
There are two notable innovations currently underway at Brody. First, we are serving as an incubator for the development of a patient safety and quality improvement curriculum, and aspects of that curriculum will help shape medical education and practice. Second, our current curriculum planning process has at its core the better alignment of the educational program with the clinical practice of medicine. While no one component alone is innovative, it will draw on the experiences of others to identify and implement the best practices in medical education.
Do you have any final thoughts regarding the Medical profession as a whole and/or the education process for future doctors?
Medical education is in an exciting, but uncertain, transition. Fifteen years ago, the physician was the source of medical knowledge and information, the diagnostician, and the care provider. All three of these roles are now being challenged. Patients independently can access quality healthcare information, algorithms can generate a differential diagnosis, and the healthcare team is now a provider of patient care. This leads to an interesting question – what is a physician? Contributing to this ‘excitement’, the proposed shift in reimbursement from the disease centered model to a health centered model opens a new significant role for physicians. The educational process for future doctors has to acknowledge all of these impending events, and prepare our graduates to flourish in the brave new clinical world.