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Educators’ Symposium: Optimizing Learning for Today’s Generation of Trainees

Like any other generation, Millennials (those reaching young adulthood in the early 21st Century) have been shaped by the major events of their time and the cultures in which they have been raised. By in large, the way they view and interact with the world is quite different from, say, the Generation X and Baby Boomer generations who have preceded them.

Understanding these differences and improving medical education in the Millennial generation were the overall goals of an Educators’ Symposium organized by the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) and held on January 6-7 on the D-H campus in Lebanon.

Provided free of charge by the Department of Medical Education at Geisel, the first-year symposium drew a strong response from D-H, Geisel, and the community with nearly 140 students, residents, faculty, community preceptors, mid-level providers, and nurses attending.

“The turnout was far in excess of what we anticipated,” says Jonathan Ross, MD, a professor of medicine and of community and family medicine at Geisel, who served on the planning committee for the event and who was also a presenter. “It was a spectacular day for education at Geisel—the enthusiasm and excitement about all of the different efforts that we are making in education came together. And I thought the quality of the posters featured on Friday evening, reflecting some of the educational research activities here, was just superb.”

Saturday’s full-day agenda began with the thoughtful and evocative keynote presentation, “Enhancing Learning in the Millennial Generation,” given by David Roberts, MD, dean for external education at Harvard Medical School, and director of international programs at the Carl J. Shapiro Institute for Education and Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“The keynote speaker was excellent, and many of the points he made were really useful,” says Tina Kenyon, ACSW, a long-time faculty member of the NH Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency program at Concord Hospital. “For example, gaining greater insights into how Millennial students prefer to communicate (text over email) and access information for learning (the more options, the better) can help us develop new strategies for improving our teaching.”

In total, 23 sessions running in four tracks—covering a wide range of educational topics from technology to teaching at the bedside—were offered to attendees. One of the most popular sessions of the day, “Brain Friendly Teaching,” was presented by Petra Lewis, MD, a professor of radiology and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Geisel and chief organizer of the symposium.

Petra Lewis, MD discussed "Brain Friendly Teaching" at the Educators Symposium. (Photo by Jon Gilbert Fox).

“If I could, I’d share Dr. Lewis’s presentation with all educators,” says Mike Lauria, a third-year medical student at Geisel. “She effectively explained the concept of cognitive load and the factors that contribute to it, and offered very practical tips on how presentations can be revised to make learning easier for students.”

Reflecting on the symposium’s success and the importance of offering this kind of event to the medical education community, Lewis says: “Most educators get little or no training in actually how to teach, and this course provided them with a chance to hone their current teaching and evaluation skills and learn new ones, whatever their learner group or environment.

“Virtually all sessions were interactive and mostly taught by members of the Geisel Academy of Master Educators,” she says. “The format allowed educators from very diverse backgrounds to share experiences and learn from each other as well as the speakers. We hope to make this a regular event.”