Feature | Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers: The 3T Experience

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Who was your most influential teacher during medical training? Do you remember what skills distinguished her or him from everyone else? The need for medical educators continues to grow, yet protecting time for Fellows in Training (FITs) to learn and practice this skill set has been challenging. The Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers (3T) program is ACC’s investment in developing FITs as medical educators to bridge this gap.

The third cohort of FITs from around the country gathered this past February in Big Sky, MT, for the third annual 3T program, a uniquely structured meeting-within-a-meeting held in conjunction with ACC’s Big Sky Cardiovascular Update course, itself celebrating its 40th year. During the five-day conference, 16 FITs honed their presentation skills, built a new community of collaborators and networked with preeminent master educators and mentors in the field of cardiology. Participants were united by a shared goal to cultivate a FIT community of cardiology medical educators.

Since its inception in 2015, 3T has sought to achieve three goals: 1) develop the skills of FITs as presenters and educators; 2) provide a forum for FITs for collaborative mentorship, reflective critique and peer-driven 360-degree feedback; and 3) foster a community of FITs hoping to build careers as cardiology clinician-educators.

The training starts before arriving in Big Sky. Each FIT is paired with a faculty member in the Big Sky course who serves as a mentor and develops a five-minute clinical case presentation that is an introduction to the mentor’s lecture. This short presentation to a continuing medical education audience highlights two to three key clinical dilemmas that the mentors in turn use to focus their presentations and generate discussion.

This integrated approach has enhanced the experience of both the 3T program and the larger Big Sky Cardiovascular Update course. In this year’s course, 90.2 percent of course participants found that involvement of the 3T fellows enhanced their overall education experience.

The experience of developing and delivering case presentations represents only part of the 3T program. During their time in Big Sky, the FITs are immersed in learning skills as teachers. They collaborate on several active learning exercises that focus on public speaking, presentation slide design, effective feedback delivery and approaches to mentorship.

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Next, the FITs apply these skills to their case presentation in a safe environment that encourages them to implement new strategies, innovate and practice. Throughout the course, the FITs participate in recurring seminars with senior faculty that focus on building careers as medical educators within cardiology.

Evaluations of 3T have been resoundingly positive. For the second consecutive year, the FITs rated the course a 4.9 of 5 in meeting its stated goals. In 2018, 3T FITs also reported a significant increase in their self-reported ability to present educational content, speak effectively to a large group, critically evaluate a presentation and provide constructive feedback to colleagues. Course topics were relevant to their career development as medical educators said 93 percent. Similarly, 93 percent reported that the learning from 3T would enhance their future presentations.

One FIT from the third cohort said 3T was “...an absolutely incredible experience. I learned a ton and I’m constantly critiquing my own presentations…” Another FIT said “I have more confidence that clinical education will continue to be an important part of medical education… [It] gives me confidence that I can be part of a growing field.”

Alumni from the 2016 and 2017 3T programs have leveraged their experience in Big Sky toward future education and leadership opportunities. Ada Stefanescu Schmidt, MD, participated in the inaugural 3T program in 2016. She currently chairs ACC’s Fellows-in-Training Section Leadership Council and works as a clinical and research fellow at the Harvard Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program in Boston, MA.

Stefanescu enthusiastically endorsed her experience: “3T was my fantastic portal of entry into the ACC community and has opened countless doors for me. 3T gave me unparalleled opportunities to learn from master educators and skilled co-fellows, work on my communication and teaching skills, and meet peers with similar interests in education and scholarship. The community that we formed has led to collaborations on manuscripts, sessions at ACC meetings, deeper involvement in the ACC, and, most importantly, long-lasting friendships with colleagues from around the country.”

Marty Tam, MD, chief fellow at the University of Michigan and participant in the 2017 program said, “The 3T program addresses a huge gap for the FIT community. There are many skills that a graduating fellow needs, including the ability to become an effective teacher. However, the 3T program goes beyond teaching to teach. It brings together a community of educators and works to build a professional identity.” Tam now serves as an integral member of the leadership team of the 3T program.

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The 3T program has received the generous support of the Big Sky course directors, Kim A. Eagle, MD, MACC, and Patrick O’Gara, MD, MACC, along with former ACC Chief Executive Officer Shal Jacobovitz. Together these leaders provided the initial inspiration for 3T and have nurtured its ongoing success. “The involvement of FITs from 3T has truly enhanced the learning environment of our Big Sky course. It provides a unique forum for FITs interested in clinical education – and it’s the type of experience that I would have treasured when I was a fellow.

Kudos to ACC for identifying this unique opportunity as part of its broad educational mission. We are proud of the success of our 3T alumni and hope to continue to cultivate a community of FIT medical educators in the years to come.”

The 3T program owes its success to leaders of ACC Chapters that have sponsored participants and looks forward to expanding this collaboration. A new cohort of FITs will join the 3T fold in February 2019 and enter the burgeoning community of cardiology medical educators.

This article was authored by Craig Alpert, MD, FACC; Michael Cullen, MD, FACC; Shashank Sinha, MD, MSc; and Marty Tam, MD.

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, Fellowships and Scholarships, Education, Medical, Cohort Studies

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