This profile is part of a series designed to highlight the importance and impact of the hospital’s teaching mission and the work of the MGH Executive Committee on Teaching & Education (ECOTE). Devin Oller, MD, is the chief resident of Internal Medicine.
Who do you teach and what do you hope they learn from you?
We have more than 150 interns and residents in the Department of Medicine, and the majority of their time here at MGH is spent delivering care to patients on our inpatient wards. When they rotate off an inpatient service and onto an ambulatory rotation, I’m tasked with creating and delivering content that will make them better outpatient doctors. Even if a resident doesn’t plan to practice primary care, almost all residents will go into a specialty that is mostly office-based, and I hope that our ambulatory didactics expand what residents believe can be accomplished in the outpatient setting. I also teach medical students through the Crimson Care Collaborative clinics at Chelsea Health Center and the Nashua Street Jail.
When did you start teaching? How has your teaching style changed over time?
During medical school, I taught Saturday nutrition classes to middle schoolers in Philadelphia. I quickly learned that the only thing that would keep kids in their seats during Saturday school is crafting lessons that surprise them and keep them guessing what would come next. The level of content creation this required wasn’t sustainable during residency, so my style shifted. I started to use clinical cases to teach my co-residents and interns, focusing on crafting questions that probe not just what the learner understands but also what the field of medicine does or doesn’t understand.
What makes you most proud of your work as an educator?
I’m most proud when I see residents wanting to create their own content and make the curriculum their own. They understand that part of professional development is being humble enough to oscillate between the teacher and learner roles. I do a lot of teaching on motivational interviewing with medical students – a technique that helps providers engage patients around behavior change. I often watch the students use motivational interviewing tools for the first time with patients and see them stunned and humbled by how much patients are willing to share with them. It’s that point where the learner stops trying to acquire knowledge like it’s some currency that can be exchanged and banked, and realizes that the experience is teaching them a lot more.
How do you benefit by teaching others? How do patients benefit when you teach others?
Teaching others, and specifically developing a new curriculum, forces me to think first about what I don’t know and how I want to collaborate with the brilliant colleagues I have around me. It’s really been these collaborations that have been the most gratifying. From the patient perspective, they benefit greatly from residents understanding how to intervene and change the course of a disease across the care continuum. By really grounding our new ambulatory curriculum in the importance of transitions and team-based care, I think we’re going to see residents grow as team leaders in the outpatient setting – something patients will undoubtedly feel.
How are you evolving the way teaching is done within your area?
The internal medicine ambulatory curriculum is moving away from traditional lectures delivered by content experts, to peer-facilitated case-based discussions, simulation sessions, roundtables, debates and panel coaching. For the 2017-18 academic year, all residents rotate through six two-week blocks, each with a central theme – Foundations, Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Health, Metabolism, Cardiovascular Disease, Geriatrics and Palliative Care, and Hematology Oncology. Residents also will be exposed to issues within each theme – for example bringing residents into conversation with local organizations working with people in recovery during the Substance Use Disorder block. We believe a peer-led and community-facing ambulatory curriculum is critical in preparing residents to be leaders and innovators in care delivery.
Read more articles from the 10/13/17 Hotline issue.