Masters of education

Clinical pharmacy professor Ann Snyder was one of 17 participants who recently graduated from the COM's Master Educator Fellowship program, which aims to help clinicians become better teachers. Photo by Maria Belen Farias.

They couldn’t write notes. It was a problem Ann Snyder, Pharm.D., noticed in almost all her students.

The notes Snyder is talking about aren’t the kind students take in a lecture hall or the kind sixth-graders pass to each other in class. Rather, many students —not just hers — struggled writing what is known as a “soap note,” the type of note health professionals write to communicate to each other about patients.

Enrolled in a College of Medicine education fellowship geared toward helping clinicians become better teachers, Snyder took on note-writing as her project for the program. She surveyed students to assess their needs and developed a rubric to guide them on how to write better notes. She also developed a standardized way to grade the notes, enhanced how to provide feedback and worked with other pharmacy faculty to include more about note-writing throughout the college’s curriculum. Now, she is extending the project to other pharmacy schools.

“Everyone struggles with it,” said Snyder, coordinator of the College of Pharmacy’s Working Professionals Pharm.D. program and a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy. “The written form of communication is poor and creates medication variations … A lot of it is also teaching students what is pertinent and what is not.”

Inspiring projects like these is one of the goals of the College of Medicine’s Master Educator Fellowship program. Started in 2001, the program aims to improve education by enhancing clinicians’ teaching skills and to help faculty advance in their own careers, says Kyle Rarey, Ph.D., a College of Medicine professor who co-pioneered the program.

As part of the program, faculty members meet twice a month for 18 months and work on individual research projects.

“The success of our education mission rests in part on the quality of teaching that is performed by our faculty, so in order for us to advance we need to help enhance their teaching,” Rarey said. “There are a lot of teaching programs where you can learn in five months how to be a better teacher, but in order to also help our faculty advance their careers we wanted to have a scholarship component as well.”

During training, clinicians are focused on learning to provide the best care to patients; they don’t always get instruction on how to become the best teachers, says Felipe Urdaneta, M.D., a clinical associate professor of anesthesiology and director of the MEF program.

Fellows learn things such as how to use new technology as tools in their teaching and how to teach small groups or during medical crises. They also have sessions with UF leaders to hear about impending changes in educational policy. But perhaps most importantly, fellows get to learn from each other and establish a network across disciplines, Urdaneta says.

“One of the major issues we have, we wear many different hats,” said Urdaneta, who was a fellow in the program’s second class. “This program opened my eyes to new methods and techniques to make education a part of my everyday activities.”

Although program participants primarily come from the College of Medicine in Gainesville and Jacksonville, four faculty members from other colleges have participated, including Snyder, Rarey says. Snyder is the first person from the College of Pharmacy to be accepted into the program.

“Part of our educational mission is to promote interdisciplinary team learning,” Rarey said.

A graduate of the fellowship’s fifth class in April, Snyder feels like working with faculty from other disciplines during the program has made her a better clinician and, in turn, a better teacher.

“What the value really was for me is knowing I am not alone,” Snyder said. “It helped me to see how other residency programs work and how others make decisions.”