I am very pleased to share our first Medical Education newsletter in my role as deputy dean for education at Yale School of Medicine (YSM). Each quarter, the newsletter will highlight important news, events, and the remarkable contributions and accomplishments of the medical education community.
At YSM, we are all on the challenging but rewarding journey of becoming, training, and supporting future clinicians and scientists. When I entered medical school in 1994, I arrived like many of our students, both wide-eyed and a bit fearful. But soon, the enthusiasm of the faculty for their professions and their specialties reassured and motivated me. I remember the first patient case we tackled in our small groups about a ricin poisoning and the next about a man with cryoglobulinemia. I recall proudly thinking I had diagnosed another case by discovering in my reading that Hirschsprung’s disease could cause constipation at birth. I was wrong about the diagnosis, but the process of clinical reasoning I learned has followed me through my entire career.
When I began my first clerkship, I remember calling home tearfully after the first night in the hospital. We had over twenty very sick patients on that service, several with end-stage AIDS, and it was July. Perhaps it was lack of sleep, but I still recall the jarring experience of seeing and hearing people suffering, what felt like inhumane routines of the hospital, intimidating power dynamics, and my inability to help.
Over the course of those weeks, I spent many hours with my team: another clerkship student, a fourth-year sub-intern, two interns, a senior resident, and our attending. I felt so appreciative of the dedication and empathy that our team had for our patients and for each other. Despite the arduous pace, my team members took time to discuss pathophysiology, explain their clinical reasoning, and ask me for my own thoughts. My intern had me practice my patient presentations with her before morning rounds, and our sub-intern often tried to boost my confidence with quick pointers under his breath as we were walking to the next room and reassuring nods while I was presenting.
Throughout those years, I also worked in the lab of the late Dr. Eva J. Neer, an incredible role model and pioneer in characterizing the structure and function of G proteins. My fondness and appreciation for her mentorship led me to name my firstborn child Eva. Later during my residency here at Yale, I developed my surgical skills with Dr. Peter Schwartz in gynecologic oncology and learned about advances in reproductive physiology from Dr. Hugh Taylor. I also benefited from countless hours of training by the dedicated OB/GYNs and midwives among our community-based voluntary faculty members. During resident didactics, I met Dr. Michael Bracken from the Yale School of Public Health and was so inspired by his work promoting evidence-based medicine that I later spent several years with him pursuing a degree in epidemiology. This experience gave me the skill set to conduct my research and mentor others in the years ahead.
I ask all of you to think back to your own experiences teaching, supporting, and learning from others and use these recollections to motivate us and to advance our educational mission at YSM. We are training the next generation of clinicians, scientists, innovators, and leaders, and we all have something to contribute.
In the months ahead, I invite you to partner with me as we work to outline our vision for the future of medical education at YSM. On the following page, I have shared some of my initial priorities, which we will further develop through strategic planning beginning this summer. Please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a particular interest in one of these areas, have any suggestions, or would like to be involved with strategic planning related to these priorities.
I sincerely look forward to working with all of you.
Jessica Illuzzi, MD, MS
Deputy Dean for Education and Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences