Developing future medical educators
Dr Sean Zhou
Can you remember an influential peer or near-peer teaching experience which helped you prepare for an exam or clinical work? Many students and foundation doctors play a key role in educating other students or peers, and the Junior Association for the Study of Medical Education (JASME) aims to build and connect these junior medical educators. It has been my pleasure to co-chair JASME, a special interest group of the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME), over the last two years.
Let me share a few key points I have learnt about leading a national committee with you.
Set short and long-term aims and goals
“A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder” – Thomas Carlyle
One of the more challenging tasks when starting a leadership role is setting long-term goals. This can be done by creating a 3-5 year agenda, which sets the aims and tone of the team. This also plays a key part in motivating and engaging team members, allowing them the opportunity to take ownership of their role and encourage participation in the committee.
Achievement of the group’s long terms goals are even more challenging. It requires regular formal meetings (in person or through video conference) to maintain a communication framework throughout the year and ensure implementation of plans. This helps the team evaluate and constantly shape short-term goals to fit the long-term agenda.
This leadership experience blog would not be complete without highlighting the importance of communication.
It is important to have good team communication, especially in JASME where there is a mix of students and doctors with varying levels of medical education and leadership experience. It allows mentor relationships to naturally form within the committee, and for team members to cover for each other during busy periods of external commitments (exams, ARCP etc). This means we are able to constantly achieve our small goals and aims that lead towards our long-term goals.
The development of technology has reshaped how teams function over distances in the last decade. We have video conferencing software such as Skype, communication apps like Whatsapp and Slack, as well as the power of social media (e.g. Twitter). This has allowed JASME’s national network to develop organically by encouraging informal communication occurring between committee members and local representatives outside of our formal meetings. This has led to the exponential growth of JASME’s medical education network over the last few years.
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JASME committee 2017-18. Credit: Dr Sean Zhou.
Invest in your team
Leading a team is one thing, but knowing how to invest and build your team is the key to long-term success. The very nature of JASME is that is has a rolling committee. Mentoring junior committee members is a natural path to the progression of the group. I have had the honour of building the JASME team over the last two years, and had the pleasure to witness our members’ leadership grow. We have had students and doctors come through from the group to do amazing things including involvement with the Healthcare Leadership Academy, more senior groups such as the Trainee Association for the Study of Medical Education (TASME), and representation at national/international conferences.
By investing in the foundations of the team, committee members are able to grow and take on more senior roles as the committee turns over. This ensures there is always someone familiar with JASME at the helm.
“To my successor”
My fundamental advice to anyone starting as chair or any form of leadership role within an organisation is:
Set clear team goals at the beginning. While these may change shape during your term, having a direction is better than not. Constantly push for progress and encourage your team along the way.
Communication. You cannot communicate enough. Use technology to your advantage and ensure your team feels comfortable raising issues as and when needed rather than at defined meetings.
Build your team. Your team may contain people with a mix of experiences, use these and put the right people together to leave behind a capable team to continue pushing forward, and to build their own future teams.
It has been a privilege and a joy to lead the JASME team over the last two years. I am proud of our achievements and excited to see what the future JASME generation will build. Upwards and onwards!
Dr Sean Zhou is an academic foundation doctor in Yorkshire and the Humber with a keen interest in medical education, and the exiting co-chair of JASME.