A dedication to teaching, learning

Recently, the UNC School of Medicine was recognized as one of the nation’s ten best schools for Women’s Health by the U.S. News and World Report. It was the first time the school, which tied for tenth in the specialty, has been recognized for Women’s Health.

“It’s very exciting,” said AnnaMarie Connolly, MD, associate professor and director of the education division within the department of obstetrics and gynecology. “It is terrific to hear that the work being done day in and day out – which is striving to provide the best in both patient care and teaching – is noticed.”  To hear that others are recognizing this is gratifying.” However, she adds, “recognition” has never been the goal, for the faculty in her department – it just happens to be a nice perk. “It’s great to be recognized for something we would be doing whether there were rankings or not.”

“Education is first of all recognized as a priority, and that’s always the first step,” said Alice Chuang, MD, assistant professor and obstetrics/gynecology clerkship director.  “Probably the most important way our department makes education a priority is that our leadership is dedicated to enforcing that as part of our mission.”

Connolly, who has seen the department from many perspectives, agrees. “It has always been clear to me from day one that education was important to this department. I saw this as a visiting fourth year student, as a resident, as a fellow, and now I see it as a faculty member.”

Connolly says that teaching is a part of clinical activity in every area of the department – the outpatient setting, operating room, in-patient ward, and labor and delivery. In fact, Connolly recently led a project that showcases how the department teaches in these clinical settings. With the help of residents and fellows who served as actors and actresses, she developed DVDs that illustrate use of the “One-Minute Preceptor” model of teaching. The DVD, called “Clinical Teaching While You Work,” features short (2 -3 minute) vignettes that demonstrate preceptor/student exchanges in several clinical scenarios.

A teaching model used by many academic medical centers, the one-minute preceptor model was not developed at UNC, however the DVDs are one of a kind. Connolly has worked to distribute them to resident teachers, faculty teachers and community based teachers across the country. “We’ve had a lot of success with using this model of instruction,” said Connolly. “We wanted to put together a resource that demonstrated how easily this helpful model can be used in the real-life clinical setting.”

It is projects like these, and proactive efforts on the part of the faculty, that garner recognition of the department across the country and lead to high rankings. The U.S. News and World Report medical specialty rankings are based solely on ratings by medical school deans and senior faculty from the list of schools surveyed.

“I think the Top Ten ranking speaks for itself,” said Daniel Clarke-Pearson, MD, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology. “We are viewed by our peers as having one of the best departments in the country for Women's Health.  Our clinical programs are very strong and offer the breadth and depth of clinical expertise.” 

Many faculty members are leaders in the field of obstetrics and gynecology and hold national leadership positions. Clarke-Pearson is currently the president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO), a national organization with more than 1,200 members, primarily gynecologic oncologists. Several faculty members are examiners for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) and two serve in ABOG leadership roles. Others have leadership positions in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Council for Residency Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology (CREOG), and in the Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology (APGO).

Not only are faculty members active in national organizations, but also in their roles as educators. “The faculty pride themselves in being excellent teachers,” said Clarke-Pearson. This level of excellence, he says, attracts the best and brightest students for residency and fellowship programs. For example, the number of UNC medical students who go into OB/GYN residency programs is higher than the national average, likely a positive reflection on the students’ clerkship experience during their third year. In addition, each year UNC receives residency applications from two-thirds of all students applying to OB/GYN programs.

Dr. Chuang has a theory on why her department is so well regarded. “I think the faculty and residents are UNC are genuinely happy with their careers, and it just shows!”

This is a first in a series of stories about the UNC medical school specialties ranked in the top ten by the U.S. News & World Report in April. The other specialties are AIDS, family medicine and rural health.

For a more complete picture of Women’s Health at UNC, please take at look at the related content below.