During the Growth Year, students may choose to pursue another professional degree such as a Master of Business Administration or Master of Public Health.
AUDREY’S GOAL THIS YEAR
“I want to earn a Master of Education in Educational Psychology this year so that during my career as a doctor, I can contribute to medical education for students, residents and patients alike.”
Teaching has always been second nature for Audrey Han. Whether it’s teaching English in South Korea or mentoring college taiko players, she’s on a mission to help those who come after her succeed. Her medical career will be no different.
“During my clerkship year, I noticed a lot of ways that teaching could be improved for medical students and residents,” Han says. “I was really fortunate to have great mentors on all of my rotations, but there are still things that could be done to encourage a more engaged relationship between teacher and student.”
Han is spending her Growth Year earning a master’s degree in education, with a focus on educational psychology. She takes courses alongside other master’s students, many of whom are approaching the degree from traditional backgrounds in education or psychology.
“Apart from preparing our students to succeed as clinicians or researchers, we also want them to feel comfortable becoming leaders in an academic setting,” says Beth Nelson, M.D., associate dean of undergraduate medical education at Dell Med. “It’s vital to be able to train the next generation of physician leaders to enter a rapidly changing health care system.”
But Han’s interest in education doesn’t stop with medical trainees. She’s also passionate about improving health education for patients and community members. So, in what little free time she has this year, she’s teaming up with faculty member Holli Sadler, M.D., on a project to teach patients with end-stage renal disease about how to manage their care, with a focus on patients who are undocumented.
“Our work is meant not only to teach patients important lessons about their medication and care, but to bring them closer to eligibility for receiving a kidney transplant,” Sadler said. “It’s a complex problem from an educational standpoint, and I’m fortunate to have Audrey on board.”
Audrey Han has spent a lot of time in classrooms, and it’s clear that she knows how to be an excellent student. But last fall, she switched roles, shadowing preceptors in clinics and professors in classrooms. And this semester, the student becomes the teacher.
Educators in both settings, from the blackboard to the bedside, have showed Han just how much forethought and intention effective teaching requires. Han took an early turn in an instructional role as she facilitated a discussion class for first-year Dell Med students. That experience, she says, will inform her work teaching other students this semester.
“It’s enlightening to see how much goes into the role of the preceptor,” Han says. “There’s a lot of preparation they do that students or residents may not see when they’re on the receiving end of the information, and you have to really know your students well to know what they respond to.”
One of Han’s fall courses, “Extraordinary Learning and Teaching,” was taught by LuAnn Wilkerson, Ed.D., associate dean for evaluation and faculty development in the Department of Medical Education. The course is designed for faculty who teach students in clinical settings, but Wilkerson notes that adding medical students to the mix created a new degree of value for everyone.
“The faculty, I suspect, may have gained even more from having the students there than the students did,” Wilkerson says. “As the two groups would partner together on discussions and projects, the perspectives they gave each other along the way were priceless.”
This spring, Han will find herself in the educator role more often as she gains experience preparing and teaching classes to fellow students. Along with this coursework and making final decisions around her master’s project, Han has one more goal in mind for the semester: to be able to connect better with patients in her family medicine clerkship, she’s planning to learn Spanish.
Medical students get a lot of advice for how to succeed, and Step One of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam is a place where the advice can get overwhelming. Study strategies, time management tools, exam prep — where to begin? And how much of it actually helps?
That’s what Audrey Han is looking to answer as she conducts her master’s report this summer.
Newly armed with expertise in educational psychology, Han and her project partner, Josh Chrisman, are turning that expertise back to medical education, studying how strategies and motivations for taking the licensing exam affect performance.
During the spring semester, she and two fellow medical students seeking master’s degrees in educational psychology have been flexing their skills by facilitating first-year medical students’ discussion courses. They even took a stab at redesigning a first-year anatomy lecture based on the education principles they’ve learned.
Diane Schallert, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at UT Austin’s College of Education, is one of Han’s mentors and will advise on her master’s report. Schallert noted that physicians who understand how to communicate and teach effectively are better equipped when it comes to patient and family interactions, and the crossover between educational psychology and medicine is wider than one might think.
“Medical education is a particularly excellent application for the field of educational psychology, especially where it relates to high-stakes testing,” Schallert says. “The licensing exam, which has such immediate ripple effects on a physician’s career, is especially interesting. How can we ensure that the field of medicine isn’t missing out on excellent physicians just because they had difficulty learning something that’s certainly learnable — but that they didn’t have the tools necessary for that information to sink in?”
Han’s master’s report entails analyzing and synthesizing existing research, and in it she’ll propose next steps for helping students prepare for the exam. She hopes the next cohort of educational psychology students will continue the work. Also, Han and her classmates are assisting Dell Med’s medical education team in preparing those in future classes seeking a master’s degree in educational psychology to enter the field better prepared with appropriate prior background knowledge.
“Now that we’re applying some of the academic frameworks that I wasn’t aware of before jumping into the master’s program, I’m starting to get comfortable with those concepts,” Han says. “We’re hoping to ensure that the class behind us is set up for success from the beginning, so that the learning curve isn’t as steep, and they can start impactful work even sooner.”
After a year of analyzing learning frameworks in pursuit of a Master of Education in Educational Psychology, Audrey Han gets it.
She gets why Dell Med educators have organized the school’s unique curriculum the way they have. She can see why some of her favorite clinical mentors are able to teach students and residents so effectively. And she has a whole new lens for understanding how patients learn to manage their own conditions.
Until graduation in May, Han will continue to work on her master’s thesis, but she’s already submitting abstracts in hopes of future presentations at conferences for medical education professionals. Her work on analyzing testing strategies blends straightforward educational psychology research findings with a focus on medical education, and she’s already providing some of those insights to first-year Dell Med students to help them prepare for success with the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination.
“This year has solidified that I would like to stay in a teaching role as a physician,” Han said. “I now know firsthand how much work it takes to be an effective teacher, but I have also seen how much of a difference it makes for students navigating clinical work, and for patients who are trying to better understand their disease.”