Teaching Doctors to be Teachers Focus of Special UH Master’s ProgramHealth professionals from Texas Medical Center applaud course on its fifth anniversary

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As medical researchers, physicians, dental professionals, nurses, emergency room directors, anesthesiologists and oncologists, they’ve devoted their lives to studying pediatric issues at Texas Children’s Hospital and ways to combat cancerous tumors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

For several hours a week, though, they also are students learning how to become teachers through a specialized master of education program offered through the University of Houston College of Education. “Doctors can go through years of school and have little formal training in how to teach students,” said Bernard Robin, UH professor and program coordinator. “The curriculum is specifically tailored for healthcare professionals who want to become better teachers, since they are often asked to pass on what they know to the next generation of healthcare workers.”

The program—officially titled Master of Education in Teaching with an Emphasis in the Health Sciences—began six years ago when Nancy Searle, a UH doctoral graduate hired by Baylor College of Medicine, collaborated with the college’s Wilford Weber to begin offering graduate courses in the Texas Medical Center. She said doctors spent so much of their life learning their specialty, but would benefit from instruction on how to teach it to others. Classes are held at Baylor College of Medicine and the Jesse Jones Library, and occasionally on the UH main campus. To date, about 50 physicians, researchers and others working in healthcare-related jobs have enrolled in courses and about half have received a master’s degree.

“They really like the technology courses I teach because they can use the skills right away,” Robin said. “They’re eager to learn how to improve their lectures with PowerPoint, how to create better instructional graphics and how to add video or audio to a Web site. There’s an immediate benefit on the technical side.” The 12-course program includes classes on curriculum development, models of teaching and instructional design. The health professionals who participate also learn about educational and psychological measurement and how to design, administer and evaluate research studies.

“My ability not only to teach, but also quote the literature, has made me a better educator. I have done things I never thought I could accomplish, such as be a co-investigator on a National Institutes of Health grant, and I now feel comfortable doing the majority of my own statistics,” said Dr. Teri Turner, associate director of House Staff Education for the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “I also can say that the training I received aided my promotion to associate professor of pediatrics and to being selected to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ editorial board. This program provided me with the springboard to succeed.”

Robin hopes to expand the program to include more students from other Texas Medical Center institutions, as well as offer more courses that match students’ needs. He’d like to add advisory groups and mentor programs for graduates, and is hopeful the curriculum will appeal to even more students who want their skills as teachers to match their skills as healthcare professionals.

“These students are just terrific. They’re accomplished, extremely bright and motivated to succeed—the kind of students every professor hopes to have,” Robin said.

Graduation for the College of Education, which includes a number of students who are completing the Masters Program, is set for 9 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 15 at Hofheinz Pavilion.

For more information on the UH College of Education, visit www.coe.uh.edu/.

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