Healthcare is a major part of the Tri-County economy. The looming physician shortage makes UICOMP’s (University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria) role as the educator of future physicians even more important. UICOMP educates about 150 medical students and 200 residents each year. Our graduates play a key role in healthcare delivery. Sixty-three percent of the family medicine physicians in the Methodist Medical Group trained at the UICOMP—MMCI Family Medicine Residency. Forty-five percent of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center’s medical staff either completed their residency through UICOMP or attended one of the UIC medical school campuses. How are we assuring that our UICOMP students and residents are given an exceptional medical education?

Medical education is changing. “Back in the days” when I went to medical school, you memorized most of what you needed to know and ran to the medical library for an actual written paper journal if you needed to learn more. Patients were often hospitalized for prolonged periods for illnesses we now manage as outpatients, and a single physician was usually the only member of a healthcare team. Now, essentially all medical information is available electronically on a device that fits in your pocket but contains a mindboggling amount of information. Hospitalized patients are usually critically ill and managed by a large team of various specialists including non-physician caregivers such as advanced practice nurses and physician assistants. Medical education is adapting to these changing realities.

Communication has always been important, but it becomes even more important when patient care is delivered by a team. UICOMP is increasing its small-group, case-based learning. This allows students to jointly solve sample cases so they learn to work together while acquiring medical knowledge. We are completing construction of phase one of our Student Learning Enhancement Project, which will provide new technology-rich rooms suitable for this type of learning.

Thanks to a generous donor, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and UICOMP are building the new $25 million Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center. The evolving area of simulation is revolutionizing medical education. Simulation uses computerized mannequins, simulated surgeries (think sophisticated video games), actor-patients and other techniques to make learners feel as if they are in the hospital. We expect to use simulation to teach technical skills, team skills, communication skills and responses to rare clinical events like childhood cardiac arrests. Our students and residents will learn to work with nurses and other hospital personnel to be sure that each patient receives integrated care. We also expect to use simulated events to evaluate our students and residents so that we can assure they are talented physicians at the time of their graduation.

We are introducing new technology into our classrooms. For example, we use a “clicker” system where students’ responses to questions are immediately graphically available during lectures. If everyone answers correctly, the teacher can move on but if a large part of the class answers incorrectly, the teacher pauses to provide more clarity. We also are using Smart Boards, provided by the Peoria Medical Society Auxiliary, to expand our teaching skills.

Of course, changing how we teach requires us to “teach the teachers.” We are delivering a wide range of learning opportunities to faculty. We have a very successful endowed Caterpillar Scholars Faculty Development program which helps educate junior faculty. We have a Residents as Teachers (affectionately known as RATs?!) program to develop the teaching skills of our residents. Our epidemiology course requires medical students to learn how to teach the community about common medical issues. Finally, we are studying our teaching effectiveness and providing our faculty with an opportunity to earn a Medical Education Research Certificate through a series of faculty development lectures. We annually recognize the skills and commitment of our teachers during the Celebration of Excellence. This year’s Celebration of Excellence will take place on September 15th, at which 45 faculty members will be recognized.

I still find teaching to be one of the most rewarding things I do. Young physicians choose medicine out of a sincere desire to help others. It is a joy and an honor to be able to provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to take exceptional care of their patients. Our UICOMP faculty strives to use the most effective techniques to educate our students and residents. Central Illinois patients benefit when they receive their care from these talented UICOMP-trained physicians. iBi