Transforming Training Using Precision Education

Stefanie Sebok-Syer, PhD of Stanford Department of Emergency Medicine is co-PI on a multi-million dollar award from Wellcome Leap Program – SAVE for the project: "Transforming Surgical Training Using Precision Education."

Brian George, MD, MAEd, University of Michigan serves as PI on the project and Andrew Krumm, PhD, also of University of Michigan is co-PI.

This project will use a data-driven approach to build a competency-based “precision education” system that assesses individual trainees’ competence and tailors teaching to the level of the individual, thereby reducing training costs and ensuring quality.

The team's tailored approach to objectively quantifying skills uses data from previous assessments to determine the next activity, case, or assessment for each individual trainee based on their current ability and performance level. 

The historical approach to surgical training was time-based, but with medical education moving to a competency-based approach precision education can help address a global shortage of surgeons.

Below, Sebok-Syer shares her motivation for working to transform medical education.

Why is this award so critical to moving toward competency-based surgical training?

Education costs money, which only a few organizations are able and willing to invest. This award is the impetus needed to make a fundamental change in the way we train physicians and assess them according to competency-based outcomes.

You are in emergency medicine, but this is targeting surgeons. Why is this inter-disciplinary collaboration valuable?

In Emergency Medicine, we interact with physicians and colleagues from other medical specialties on a daily basis, so I’m used to that. Plus, as a PhD Scientist and trained methodologist, my skills and expertise are not limited to a particular clinical specialty. This collaboration is really an opportunity to model how individuals from different disciplines can work together to make things better for everyone.

What prompted you to explore this area? What is your personal connection or motivation to moving this needle forward?

That’s easy, I love data! More frequently than any of us care to admit, schools graduate trainees who are not ready and likewise hold back ones that are. I think we can be more precise in both the way we train physicians and in the decisions we make about their progression. I personally feel a sense of responsibility to every patient that walks through the door (it’s an Emergency Medicine thing) and think we should be more deliberate in our approach to education and training. 

 What potential challenges are being overlooked in medical education and health care training?

I'm concerned that we will build this amazing collaborative data infrastructure and people will find reasons not to participate in it because they don’t want to share data. The financial aspects of medical education and healthcare training, especially in the United States, continue to present a multitude of challenges that prevent us from doing things that benefit society as a whole.

What are you most excited about in the field of medical education? Where are the areas of biggest opportunity?

You mean besides being able to work with great people? I’m excited for any and all work that unequivocally links medical education with patient outcomes. I think the greatest opportunity for this project is to level the playing field among those institutions and organizations that have a data infrastructure and those who do not. Through coordination and collaboration everyone can access their data, and benchmark it against a meaningful standard that allows us to improve patient care.