High-impact, scalable applied research through the Statewide Campus System


A look at two recent projects orchestrated through the Statewide Campus System

As the osteopathic profession increases its focus on research, the Statewide Campus System (SCS) is leading the charge for members by providing training resources and supports, as well as conducting its own research. Recently, Deborah Young, PharmD, BCPS, the director of faculty development at the SCS, designed two research projects with the potential for high impact on professionals in the medical field because of their relevance and scalability.  

Virtual medical education

Dr. Young’s first research project is relevant to anyone who logged into a Zoom call or other virtual platform this past year to attend a meeting, conference or class. As the college transitioned to virtual education, so did the SCS, presenting the perfect opportunity for the researcher to measure the effectiveness of medical education delivered virtually, and to identify recommendations for future trainings.  

The research focused on the most effective practices in planning and hosting a virtual training — the three-day intensive ACGME Regional Hub Faculty Development Course, “Developing Faculty Competency in Assessment.” Through careful planning with the SCS team, including Dr. Julianne Purcell and conference support coordinator Traci Garlitz, as well as others, and practice runs with presenters, the SCS created an effective learning environment through the delivery of short content bursts, interactive breakouts, small group discussions, activities and simulations.

“When we switched to a virtual format, it was more convenient and easily accessible. We were able to reach more faculty, residents and practicing clinicians,” says Dr. Young.  By eliminating barriers to attending trainings in person, including travel and work schedule conflicts, the program saw a significant increase in participation from SCS partners located throughout the state of Michigan.

“While we had more regional-based attendance at courses in the past, the minute we offered these courses virtually, we’ve had national and even international attendees,” she notes. Non-SCS members can now also attend with a fee.

As the first of 17 ACGME hubs worldwide to move the course to a virtual format, the SCS team provided consultations to other hubs to enhance their own online offerings. The SCS has now offered the training virtually twice in 2020 and 2021. To provide more flexibility this coming fall, the SCS will offer alternate formats that break up the training into six half-days or six weekly sessions to attract more trainees.

Another benefit of online trainings is the ability to expand the network of trainers and presenters now that time- or cost-prohibitive travel is no longer a factor.  

Going forward, the SCS anticipates offering a hybrid model for most courses: a live version for those who learn better in-person, and an online option for those with tighter schedules or who prefer on-demand training.

Mindfulness and physician burnout

Finding ways to effectively relieve physician burnout has been a critical conversation in the medical profession for years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as the demands of hospitalization and testing strained hospital systems and its personnel, the necessity and urgency of providing actionable and sustainable wellness practices rose to the forefront.

A mindfulness curriculum available to SCS partners was already in the works pre-pandemic and was ready to launch at the start of lockdowns. Dr. Young’s team had the opportunity to add additional research questions to study participant well-being throughout the pandemic as well.

Dr. Young set out to formally study the impact of a mindfulness program because there isn’t a lot of existing research on the topic, especially around the area of written reflection. “I was never taught this,” she says. “Mindfulness and reflection and self-care was never integrated into my learning at any level — academic or clinical — I had to seek it for myself.”

She continues, “This new training helps faculty teach it, practice it and integrate it into their own lives, and includes tips to promote patient wellness.”

Dr. Young led the development of four core modules on awareness, reflection and self-compassion that are being released online every two weeks via a closed link to 125 active participants. The curriculum promotes wellness and resiliency, providing participants with a framework to help them find the positive in every situation. Participants submit writing reflections after every module, which Dr. Young’s team scores against a reflection rubric assessing the insightfulness of their responses against their baseline reflection to see if their mindfulness increased through the application of mindfulness techniques.

Increasing physician mindfulness also supports the quadruple aim of providing cost-effective and safe patient care and providing resources and wellness to help health care providers.

“You have to be well before your patients and students are well,” Dr. Young states.

She emphasizes the importance of practicing mindfulness daily and supporting ongoing wellness: “Wellness is every day. It’s not a one and done course — it’s doing what’s best for you to get better and stay well.”

“What works for me is different than what works for someone else,” Dr. Young says. “We have to be mindful that everyone’s wellness is going to look different and we need to address the six pillars of wellness: spiritual, emotional, social, physical, intellectual and workplace wellness.”  

“You don’t have to have wellness in every area, or there might be one area that’s really important to you,” she explains. “How you integrate those pillars into your life is an individualized practice. We’re providing resources for all of those areas.”

Dr. Young worked with her SCS colleague, Samuel Wisniewski, and three SpartanDO students on the research design and analysis: Hunter Holsinger, OMS III; Katherine Guardado, OMS II; and Anjali Gundeti, OMS III. In addition to enjoying collaborating with students, Dr. Young explains, “It’s important to get students excited about research now so they stay excited about it in practice.”

“It was a really great experience to be involved in a project that was just starting so that I could learn about literature reviews, questionnaire building and data gathering in depth,” says Gundeti. “As future physicians, it's imperative we learn to take care of ourselves, so that we can minimize errors in health care. The applicability and the potential impact of our findings are what excite me the most.”

“I was very excited to be part of a research project that has the potential to ameliorate burnout and increase resilience in students and physicians, and ultimately improve patient outcomes,” says Guardardo.  

The research team plans to finalize the data soon. Once final results are in, Dr. Young hopes to work closely with the college’s student life and mental health support services departments to expand the mindfulness modules to all SpartanDO students, all members of the SCS, and eventually other practicing physicians outside of these networks.

In the meantime, Dr. Young has started a Wellness Integration Network (WIN) with representatives from 28 SCS community hospital/clinic partners that meets monthly to discuss wellness initiatives and identify successes, challenges and additional resources needed in their programs. The WIN steering group (comprised of Dr. John Taylor, Dr. Julianne Purcell, Dr. Stephanie West, Dr. Heather Kirkpatrick, and Dr. Brenda Lepisto) also puts out a monthly wellness newsletter with articles related to each pillar of wellness with actionable tools and practice ideas to better integrate mindfulness and wellness into a daily practice.