3.3 Alex Johnson, Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions


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Topics discussed in this episode include:Dr. Johnson’s introduction into the speech-language field, which was itself experiential, based on mentoring that stemmed from the 1970 Kent State shootings, his undergraduate college.A discussion followed of how he and the field embraced this experiential approach when he first went into academic leadership at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.  His department partnered with Case Western Reserve University to design a two-year clinical fellowship for its graduate students to develop strong competency in adult medical speech pathology. He also discussed how, before taking his graduate degrees, he worked in a public elementary school where he saw how speech pathology could interfere with learning, and how he took that with him into his later work with adults.Now, as Provost at MGHIHP, Dr. Johnson oversees programs with about 1600 students at all levels, including nursing - the first school to prepare nurse practitioners in the country – and now includes a variety of Certificates, Masters, and PhD programs.In all of these programs, Dr. Johnson emphasizes the comprehensive integration of experience, and not just the “nice option” that is “added on to undergraduate experiences” in some universities. In this way, he points out that while many citizens know about this training superficially from television, the details of a medical education in each program are the key to its success.A currently relevant conversation then developed on how Covid19 caused the shut-down of March 9th, 2020, prompting an rapid expansion of tele-health operations. Developing these experiences includes the hiring of actors to play the roles of patients, and that allows the opportunity to specifically design certain experiences with patients who may be angry or one who interrupt all the time et cettera.  While the use of actors as “standardized patients” has been around for a while, MGHIHP has expanded their use to other relevant patient scenarios, such as the need for the use of an interpreter where the mother of the child does not speak English.In conversation with the interviewer (a practicing speech pathologist herself), the point emerged that not only can we not just wait until the pandemic lifts, but that we must take the forced virtual learning as driving the development of new teaching modalities. One of them may be MGHIHP’s recent work with the Center for Medical Simulation that gives their students a head-start on what will be experienced at a clinical placement. That not only improves the student experience, but it reduces somewhat the instructional and management burden on the hospital or other entity that is supervising the student.Dr. Johnson emphasized the “light bulb” that comes on when the student has a good clinical experience, and he points out that when noticed by the supervisor, it often results in a job offer after graduation.  This benefit of experiential education is to both parties, and that is something that happens in experiential education broadly.  We podcasters agree that this conclusion makes MGHIHP worthy of study in general, beyond its role in the medical field.Resources Discussed in this Episode:MGH Institute of Health ProfessionsHarvard Center for Medical SimulationKent State ShootingsMusic Credits: C’est La Vie by Derek Clegg