As we slipped into the lecture hall, a particularly fierce image glared at us from the screen. Claude Bernard's portrait greeted us to the lecture in his honor. The speaker, William Galey, took the podium, and proved that this visage was not necessary for teaching excellence.
Dr. Galey spent most of his career at the University of New Mexico and gave a wonderful history of its move to a case- or problem-based curriculum over the years. He also spoke of ongoing efforts to develop competencies for medical students and to drive our curricula in that direction. In his current position at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, he helped develop (with the Association of American Medical Colleges) a listing of competencies for students entering and graduation from medical school (available here).
My favorite part of his musings involved the central nature of physiology and medicine. Really, we need to start embroidering samplers with this quote:
Physiology is to medicine as physics is to engineering.
Later in the day, at What Do Competencies Have To Do With My Teaching? the audience got a more thorough look at the concept of competencies and their relationship to standards, objectives, goals, and assessment. Competencies first came about in graduate medical education, but now have extended into the pre-medical and medical curricula. Every objective and every assignment should be linked to achieving a particular necessary competency. Curriculum maps will make your head spin, but they can be quite valuable to identify gaps and other issues.
Competencies may soon be more as some groups work toward defining these skills for faculty. Particularly in academic medicine, new faculty often have minimal, if any, pedagogical training. Other skill gaps may present as well. As a person who works in faculty development, I appreciate these efforts so I can figure out what our faculty members may need.
Like it or not, we are educators. Even though our primary job may be research or patient care, at some point we will have to help train someone else. If we cannot say what they need to know, we cannot know if we succeed.