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From the desk of George Kim: Steady progress continues on the Distributed Education Network Strategic Plan as new stakeholder committees are launched

The Strategic Plan for Distributed Education was released in January 2014. Complete with six strategic directions and a long list of goals, the plan is a blueprint to achieve renewed excellence in distributed medical education.

One year later, we have tracked steady progress on achieving this goal. While the work for the three initial committees is moving into the implementation stage, four new committees have been identified.

The committees will be focused on: Learning and Technology; Faculty Affairs, Recognition and Community Engagement; Research; and Quality Management. Invitations for committee chairs and membership are being shared and we will have more details on the activities for the committees in the March update.

A few weeks ago, we shared a more public announcement for our Regional Academic Directors. Each month, we will share with you an opportunity to get to know one of our new RADs.

This month, I am pleased to introduce Dr. Shanil Narayan, Regional Academic Director for Huron-Perth. He answered some key questions about his experience and his plans for the new role.

Tell us about your background.
I was born in Guyana, South America, and lived in St. Lucia and Barbados before moving to Canada when I was 13 years old. Remembering classmates who excelled academically, but did not have the same opportunities forever impresses upon me that education is a gift, and that the affordances offered in our communities are a privilege we must work hard to preserve.

Where did you receive your medical education (undergrad and residency)?
I studied Biochemistry and Medicine at Queen’s University. My General Internal Medicine specialty and some extended training in echocardiography were done at the University of Ottawa.

What is your specialty?
General Internal Medicine.

What has been your past experience with distributed education at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry?
My first experience with distributed medical education at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry was as a second year resident on elective from Ottawa.

I was struggling to choose between General Internal Medicine and an opportunity to pursue an MD/PhD program. I connected with a dynamic teacher and general internist based in Stratford for an elective. He rivalled my academic centre mentors with his passion and energy. He had a fervent dedication to family, patient care and community - and it resonated. He practised the breadth of internal medicine from ICU care to health care advocacy. He provided front-line care in the ER and telephone support to family doctors in offices at more rural sites. Distributed education in Stratford showed me what an integrated system, supporting principles of continuity of care could look like.

I joined Dr. Art VanWalraven’s practice in 2003 and saw other residents and medical students come through and work with us. Their experiences were equally positive. I started sharing learners with Dr. VanWalraven and then supervised them on my own, enjoying the one-on-one opportunities I had appreciated not so long before from a different perspective.

Dr. VanWalraven continued to be a mentor for me through my early career. In the subsequent years, I would evolve my involvement as an academic director for Internal Medicine and represent Schulich Medicine in the rural regional area. Our group of academic directors worked with a dedicated core staff in the Distributed Education office and helped to further develop the network of community training sites.

Why did you take on this new role as a Regional Academic Director?
I want to continue what we started and continue to build the network. I want to show off what we have. And like Sinatra/Bennett said, “The best is yet to come”.

What will be the first priorities for you in your new role?
The first priority for me is to get to know the faculty better. My new role will now extend to represent Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s interests among all specialties in the Huron/Perth hub. The corollary obviously is to represent their vision of improved health care and education to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry so we can find innovative ways to improve as a whole.

What do you hope to achieve in your first year?
In my first year, I hope to quickly identify my education champions in the distributed sites. I want to see what they do well and look to leverage our network to distribute their stories so that others may learn from their successes. In the same vein, I hope to help distribute more of the amazing education resources available at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry to support education initiatives in the distributed sites and improve the experiences of our learners there.

What do you believe are some of the opportunities and challenges facing distributed education for medical schools in Canada?
I believe that a motivated and engaged distributed faculty, and their supporting communities, afford the greatest opportunity.

I want others to share the opportunity I had in residency and to know there are many great experiences to be had in distributed sites - chances to engage in a dialogue about determinants of career satisfaction that are different from those one is exposed to in traditional learning environments.

The greatest challenge of our time is the growing climate of fiscal restraint that increasingly defines how we deliver both education and patient care. As we look to develop innovative ways to adapt to these restraints, technology is increasingly an area of strategic focus. Technology is often heralded as a panacea but I believe technology is in essence best thought of as a magnifier of human behaviour. Our opportunity and challenge here is to engage in the intelligent design of new tools, which encourage positive behavior.

Together we can move toward a shared goal of education, which informs improved patient care.

What can Schulich Medicine do to meet these opportunities and challenges?
Schulich Medicine & Dentistry has successfully worked to increase the capacity in distributed education sites and, in doing so, has increased the number of opportunities for learners to be exposed to generalist models and diverse learning contexts in accordance with “The Future of Medical Education in Canada” recommendations of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC).

The School has also initiated some ambitious projects, which supports the mentorship I believe is key to a successful community practice and to building our under-recognized education base.

To build on successes to date, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry will continue to expand its education support to learners, faculty and their supporting allied health partners in rural regional areas.

We know education does not happen in the restricted relationship between a faculty member and learner; it happens in a community with a shared vision of improved education and patient care. A lot of background work has been done at Schulich Medicine enabling this and I’m looking forward to helping complete the connection locally. I’m equally excited to have an opportunity to champion complementary community initiatives.

The challenge of technology design is a beast. The opportunities are tremendous but so are the threats. Designed and implemented well, we hope to see improved quality care through health care including education. But technology also threatens to restructure valued relationships that are the fabric of our community strengths. There are opportunities to dovetail technologies used to deliver patient care with those used to deliver education and reinforce established relationships. Exciting times ahead.

What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?
Looking for new experiences keeps the blinders off and helps me stay energized. My family and I love travelling. We hike and canoe in Killarney and Algonquin each year with great friends and are currently planning our next hike in Yukon’s Tombstone Territorial Park. We also love to travel internationally. We spent some time in Sancerre, France and Quebec City in 2011 to study French. We met great people and explored history in Israel and Palestine in 2013. The kids got to sail down the Nile with us last year. New Zealand is next on our agenda.