GSE Alumnae Bring Education Expertise to Health-Related Professions
Opportunities for Graduate School of Education (GSE) graduates span much farther than the classroom. Dr. Aubrie Swan-Sein (Ed.M. ’08, Ph.D. ‘09) and Dr. Melissa Medina (Ed.M. ’96, Ed.D. ‘06) currently use their education backgrounds in health professions education careers.
Dr. Medina, Assistant Dean for Assessment and Evaluation at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Oklahoma, earned her Ed.D. and Ed.M. in Educational Psychology. Her recent attention has been draw to research in the scholarship of teaching and learning as well as in educational research with a special interest in two main areas; team-based learning and student problem solving. She has developed rubrics for assessing gains in student problem solving abilities and hopes the outcome of her research will aid educators in practical ways to increase student’s ability to learn actively and solve clinical problems.
Dr. Swan-Sein, Education, Assessment, and Evaluation Specialist at the Center for Education Research and Evaluation at Columbia University Medical Center, earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, as well as an Ed.M. in Educational Statistics, Measurement, and Evaluation. What really helped prepare Dr. Swan-Sein for her career was the combination of engaging in educational research and evaluation studies alongside content and methodology coursework. She advises people who plan to pursue careers in health professions education to have strong knowledge of and skills in education research, evaluation, assessment, instruction, curriculum design, education technology, and education leadership.
“This is certainly an interesting and exciting field to work in,” and “education experts can be important contributors to the field of health professions education, alongside clinical faculty,” said Dr. Swan-Sein.
Learn more about Dr. Swan-Sein and Dr. Medina in the question-and-answer section below.
Q: What are you currently working on? What do you hope to accomplish with this?
Dr. Swan-Sein: I work as an Evaluation, Assessment, and Education Specialist at the Center for Education Research and Evaluation (CERE) at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). CERE’s mission “is to support and empower teachers, leaders and scholars in the CUMC community to succeed in their educational endeavors. We achieve this through collaboration, consultation, and advising in study strategies and test preparation, program evaluation, learner assessment, educational research and scholarship, instructional design, and educator development.” I primarily provide this support to the Columbia University Medical Center’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) and College of Dental Medicine (CODM), but CERE also supports residency education programs at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the evaluation of the Clinical and Translational Science Award s program.
Recently, I have also become the Medical Education Scholarship Research and Evaluation (MESRE) section chair for the Northeast Group on Education Affairs of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which is the professional organization for medical educators. MESRE strives to improve medical education research quality and the application of education research to practice.
My scholarly interests include studying medical students’ learning approaches, with the goal of helping these students to better utilize long-term learning strategies.
Dr. Medina: I have many different areas of responsibility in my position, all of which are focused on training faculty, residents and students in teaching methods so they can more effective promote student learning.
At the College of Pharmacy, I am the Assistant Dean for Assessment and Evaluation. I work on our program accreditation as well as programmatic and course assessment efforts. I oversee our Resident Teaching Certificate program and chair our college’s Assessment Committee. I also teach in several courses throughout the curriculum such as clinical communications and senior seminars. I run a teaching evaluation service for our college faculty too.
On campus, I am the Director of Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) for the Graduate College, which is a program for graduate students and post-doctoral students to gain teaching experience due to the lack of teaching opportunities on campus. I also teach a campus Faculty Leadership Program for early career faculty learning how to teach. On campus, along with the Vice-Provost I co-coordinate an Educational Grand Rounds for the campus faculty.
Nationally I am involved in a Pharmacy Education organization (the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy) where I have recently served as chair for the committee tasked with revising the Pharmacy Education program outcomes for the country to be used in national accreditation. I also just completed my term as the chair of the Academic Affairs committee where we addressed the scholarship of teaching and learning and how to elevate the importance of teaching in the tripartite mission, building on the work of Ernest Boyer (which I learned about at the GSE!).
Q: How did your education at Rutgers prepare you for your career today?
Dr. Swan-Sein: As a GSE Ph.D. student, I had the opportunity over five years to work on a range of educational research and evaluation studies, alongside my content and methodology coursework. Gaining experience from the formal classroom learning and from working on these studies and projects was invaluable. My dissertation, conducted under the guidance of Dr. Angela O’Donnell, was an evaluation of the 2007 Transformation of Undergraduate Education at Rutgers University during which the 4 separate liberal arts colleges were merged into one School of Arts and Sciences. This project was a great opportunity to learn about the functioning of higher education organizations and has informed my work as an administrator at Columbia University Medical Center.
Dr. Medina: My education at Rutgers GSE prepared me in ways beyond the knowledge and skills I gained classroom. I was surrounded by an exceptional group faculty who mentored me in my research and in my studies, all of whom I would like to express my deepest appreciation for: Dr. O’Donnell, Dr. DeLisi, Dr. Chinn, Dr. McCune, Dr. Hmelo-Silver, Dr. Penfield, and Dr. Goldbeck. They offered leadership and research opportunities that have had a great deal of impact on me and have contributed to my success today.
Q: Why did you choose to go into the health professions education field?
Dr. Swan-Sein: My entry specifically into medical education was serendipitous. My career goal as a graduate student was to find a position working in a higher education setting in a role where I could help faculty and administrators with education research, evaluation, and assessment projects. As a graduate student, I regularly attended the American Education Research Association (AERA) and the American Evaluation Association (AEA) national conferences. In my final year in the program, I brought my CV to the AEA conference, where it was picked up by my future colleague at CERE. It was a perfect match between the expertise and experience that CERE was looking for and the work that I was interested in, but it happened to be in a medical education setting instead of an undergraduate education setting. I had had no prior knowledge of or experience with the medical education system, but my education research and evaluation skills transferred nicely, and I was able to learn the medical education context along the way. I have since encouraged other educational psychology colleagues to explore a career in health professions education.
Dr. Medina: I had worked in a neuropsychology animal research laboratory, at St. Peter’s Medical Center, and the Cancer Institute of NJ during my undergraduate and graduate years to pay the bills. So while at the GSE I looked for a way to merge my academic and professional lives. Dr. O’Donnell was very helpful during this journey because she helped guide my research interests in active learning and problem-based learning. While exploring the relevant literature in those areas, I learned about medical education and realized that this was the avenue for merging my interests.
Q: What advice can you give to students who also plan to go into the health education field?
Dr. Swan-Sein: Medical education is an interesting and exciting field to work in, and it seems as though there is increasing recognition by physician faculty members working in education administration that non-physician education experts can also be important contributors to the field. Educators can work as course, clerkship, or residency program coordinators, in school and hospital offices of medical education in positions supporting education, admissions, diversity affairs, and student support services, or as faculty-appointed education specialists, like me.
Dr. Medina: I would encourage students interested in going into this field to gain paid or volunteer work experience at a hospital and or a basic science research laboratory to learn the terms and concepts associated with health care. My medical and research experiences have facilitated my consultation with clinical and basic science faculty, which are the two types of faculty at a health sciences center. Since I understand their work and can “talk” their language, I can offer my personalized and relevant guidance. I have trained other educators that lack health professions or basic science laboratory exposure and it impacts their work because they have to eventually learn the terminology.
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