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Educators in academic surgery on managing expectations for surgery clerkship

May 15, 2024
by Elisabeth Reitman

Critical thinking, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence are a few of the skills medical students can learn during their surgical rotations. R. Peter Manes, MD, Saral Mehra, MD MBA, Kelly Olino, MD, and David Stitelman, MD, from the Yale Department of Surgery discuss what makes a rewarding surgery clerkship experience.

In this series, Department of Surgery faculty, who were voted as top educators by the Yale School of Medicine's Class of 2024, share reflections on the role of academic surgeons in shaping medical education.

How do you engage and inspire students in the clerkshipexperience, while recognizing that the majority of students will not pursue surgery?

Tailor the educational experience

R. Peter Manes: While many students are not interested in surgery, they all are curious, inquisitive individuals. It’s important to tailor the educational experience to the learner’s interests, while at the same time highlighting important concepts that every physician needs to know, no matter what career they pursue.

Use the Socratic method

Saral Mehra: I sometimes see students treated as invisible observers. If a student in my operating room or clinic made it this far in life; he/she is clearly a smart, educated, driven individual as clinical educators we need to see them as such. They are real people. Say good morning, ask questions, and make them feel a part of what is going on. Little acts and acknowledgements can go a long way to making students feel engaged and feel as though they belong.

In the operating room, and clinic, I like to use the Socratic method to teach. First, I warn them of my technique, and acknowledge I don’t expect them to know the answers to everything; it’s okay to not have an answer – but they must think. In this way, I can assess their current knowledge base, and adjust my questions to what will benefit them. I also have them write me diagrams and flow charts as they think through anatomy and differential diagnoses – the marking pens and sterile sheets make great writing apparatus.

In the clinic, or when not scrubbed in the operating room, I'll even tell them; it's okay to use your phone and resources to answer my questions- but take 5-10 minutes, figure out the answer, and then teach me. A little secret: if I ask a question for which I don't know the answer (or if a student asks me a question I can’t answer); I ask them to look it up and either tell me the next day or send me an email with the answer.

Success beyond a surgery rotation

Kelly Olino: Each student who comes in is trying to figure out how they belong and have to do this every single month. I think having a one-on-one meeting to begin each rotation and explaining the value of the opportunity they are being given and how valuable the time is to be dedicated to learning is key. We also discuss strategies for success beyond a surgery rotation- pursuing a love of knowledge, pushing for continuous improvement, and understanding that caring is the key to be a great doctor.

Create a shared vision

David Stitelman: Before cases, I like to discuss steps and anatomy with the resident and medical student. This helps us have a shared vision of what happens during cases. In terms of engagement, I also like to ask about undergraduate major, future plans and mentorship. In the Yale system, having a mentor is a big deal and making sure there is a faculty member watching out for the student is vital.

Submitted by Elisabeth Reitman on May 09, 2024