School name: University of California San Francisco (as well as Alliant International University in San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley)
Type of college/university: UCSF is a public university, and it’s the only campus in the 10-campus UC system dedicated exclusively to the health sciences. UC Berkeley is also a public university, while Alliant is a not-for-profit private university.
School locale: Definitely an urban setting
Classes I teach: I spend about 60% of my time as a clinical health psychologist in private practice and about 40% of my time teaching. Mine is not the standard university faculty profile, but I know that I'm not the only psychologist who cares about teaching and has put together a bit of a patchwork of both volunteer and paid teaching activities.
At UCSF I hold a volunteer faculty position as clinical professor, but it’s a role that I have expanded quite a bit given my excitement about the work. In a course called Foundations of Patient Care, I am the assistant course director for faculty development and I teach a section of the course in addition to sections in a Brain, Mind, and Behavior module and a Social and Behavioral Sciences module. This all occurs at the UCSF School of Medicine. I also teach a section of Interprofessional Development Education for the combined Schools of Dentistry, Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Physical Therapy. At Alliant International University, I'm an adjunct professor and have taught courses on ethics, intercultural awareness development, and death & dying, and I’m scheduled to teach a course on psychology & palliative care in the 2015-2016 academic year. Finally, I teach in the UC Berkeley Extended Education program, providing workshops on palliative care and on ethics (the latter is a workshop that is mandated for licensed mental health professionals in California to take every two years).
What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received?
The best advice was actually about learning. My uncle was a university professor, and one day when I was in high school I was very proud to say I got straight A’s for the first (and only) time. His response: “Well, that tells me you weren’t challenged enough.” Once I got over having my feathers ruffled by that, I realized that he was right. To this day, I tell my students, “This course is a great place to do your best and find out what are your next steps. I encourage you to come right up to your learning edge… and then dance.”
What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher?
Educating Physicians: A Call for Reform of Medical School and Residency by Cooke, Irby, and O'Brien. I have been teaching in a medical school since my clinical psychology postdoc fellowship; this book really opened my eyes to how the role of the medical educator is one that nurtures the lifelong learning stance of the physician and, by extension, the quality of care patients and their families receive. My unique training as a psychologist allows me to bring the concepts of psychology into a related health care field and teach some important psychological concepts in a non-psychology setting. Plus, author Molly Cooke was my co-facilitator for a decade, so I learned a great deal just through our regular teaching interactions.
Tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach.
My favorite course is the Foundations of Patient Care course I teach at UCSF. This is a two-year sequence in the essential core curriculum for the medical students. The students are divided into small groups of 7-8 people, each with a co-facilitator team of a physician and a non-physician mental health professional, and I’ve taught a succession of these small groups since I started my postdoc fellowship in 1995. Affectionately (and privately), I subtitle the course, “How to Remain a Human Being While Learning to Become a Physician.” Although it focuses on what most people think of as “bedside manner,” students taking this course are also given exposure to the fields of cultural competence, interprofessional education, grief and bereavement, health care disparities, sexuality, professional development, heuristics, human development, health policy, and ethics. My role is to help the students, as fledgling physicians, learn how they can provide high-quality medical care while they also optimize their patients' experiences in the health care setting. I thrive in the longitudinal nature of the course, and the co-facilitator pairings have been instrumental in allowing me to learn more about the culture of medicine while also demonstrating how these young physicians-to-be can make use of what has been studied in psychology and how that knowledge can contribute to quality health care.
Describe a favorite in-class activity or assignment.
I have an exercise I call, “What’s in a Name?” and have used it in my courses in intercultural awareness development as well as in the very first week of classes for first-year medical students. Students pair up and find out information about the name of their partner, and then introduce their partner to the larger group (or a small subset if I’m working with a large group of students, like the roughly 160 students who arrive each year for medical school). The questions include: how the person likes to be addressed; the person’s full name at birth (and when they got the name); who gave the person that name; if the person was named for anyone, and if so for whom and why; the etymology of the name; and any changes to the name over the years and what prompted the change. In addition to getting to know each other through this ice-breaker exercise, my students quickly see that there are differences between them that aren’t necessarily easily seen, and that each person has a unique story.
What teaching and learning techniques work best for you?
I use a lot of problem-based learning in my courses, and I make sure to include a written assignment that requires a student to get out into the community, whether that’s taking a tour of a hospice or interviewing a member of an institutional review board or ethics committee.
What’s your workspace like?
Well, in none of my teaching settings do I have my own workspace! I do have my private practice office where I do most of my course preparation, but often my teaching workspace is in a café on the UCSF campus where I go to review upcoming classes and catch up on the educational research literature.
Three words that best describe your teaching style.
Responsive, challenging, and humorous
What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
Passionately involve yourself with your students’ learning.
The result of this was certainly brought home to me when I won the 2013-14 UCSF Essential Core Teaching Award for “Inspirational Teacher.” This is a school-wide recognition where both the nominations and the selection are handled by the medical students themselves.
Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had.
I had a day-long workshop to teach on a Saturday, and less than an hour into the day my data projector light blew out. There went all my work making engaging presentation software slides! Fortunately the handout I created had the majority of the information from the slides, so I just got from behind the lectern, sat on the table at the front of the room, and we proceeded to complete the rest of the day using the information the students had in their hands. Since I could look at my laptop for cues to send people on breaks and lunch, the day turned out surprisingly well, and the students appreciated my (seemingly) imperturbable nature.
What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?
Three weeks before I started my psychology fellowship I rode my bicycle for 7 days (including 3 “centuries,” which are 100+ miles days) as part of a fund-raising ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to benefit AIDS service organizations in those two cities.
What are you currently reading for pleasure?
I actually just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and chuckled throughout the book. As the youngest of my husband’s and my four children recently left home, with nary a twinge of empty nest syndrome I am catching up on some of the classics I missed along the way. Next up: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
What tech tool could you not live without?
Wi-fi. My students bring laptops and tablets to work on the problem-based learning cases we have available on line, and it allow us to focus on developing clinical thinking and interpersonal team building skills, leaving more didactic learning to time outside of class.
What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)?
My chatter tends to happen at faculty development meetings and in my café “office” and is a blend of how our own offspring are doing (and how we are doing with our offspring!) and figuring out how to best approach the total curriculum revamp for the medical school that will début in in the 2017-2018 school year. I suppose my closest colleagues and I can be called “health professions education wonks;” we’re as interested in educational scholarship (both consuming it and creating it) as we are in the actual teaching of the curriculum and the professional development of our students.