Teaching the Teachers: Simulation Fellowship Trains Global Medical Educators

Article Summary
  • The Gordon Center’s Simulation Education and Research Fellowship instructs a global array of physicians on medical simulation practices.
  • The fellowship addresses a gap in contemporary medical training, which focuses on clinical skills but rarely includes medical education principles.
  • Current fellow Samia Medeiros Barbar, M.D., from São Paulo, Brazil, says the fellowship has taught her valuable lessons on how students learn.

The Gordon Center for Simulation and Innovation in Medical Education’s Simulation Education and Research Fellowship draws physicians from around the world to learn how leading-edge simulation practices can enhance clinical skills and address real-world medical challenges.

“The idea is to train a group of people in simulation-based education, as well as broader medical education principles,” said Ross Scalese, M.D., the Gordon Center’s director of Educational Technology Development and professor in the Miller School’s Department of Medicine. “Medical school and residency are mostly focused on clinical training and biomedical research, but education is quite different. It’s not something people routinely get in their medical training.”

Gordon Center Director of Educational Technology Development Ross Scalese, M.D., with current fellow Samia Medeiros Barbar, M.D., standing in front of a simulator.
Gordon Center Director of Educational Technology Development Ross Scalese, M.D., with current fellow Samia Medeiros Barbar, M.D.

This can create a disconnect. Many gifted physicians are asked to teach trainees but have little educational training of their own. Medical education is a distinct discipline but few have time to pursue the extra training. Through these fellowships, and other programs, the Gordon Center fills those gaps.

Expanding Medical Educational Frontiers

The Gordon Center has accepted 18 international fellows since 2010, from as far from Miami as China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. The program was briefly paused during the pandemic but has resumed with the current fellow Samia Medeiros Barbar, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at the University of São Paulo’s Heart Institute, part of the largest medical complex in South America.

“Dr. Barbar will direct a new simulation center being built at her institution,” said Dr. Scalese. “She’s already an attending in pediatric cardiology, but she’s going to take on this new role running the simulation center.”

Dr. Barbar’s interest in medical education started at the Heart Institute, which sees both adult and pediatric patients. However, few of the cardiology nurses had pediatric experience.

“Children with congenital heart disease are quite different,” said Dr. Barbar. “Their oxygen saturation levels are different. Their blood pressure levels are different. This made the nurses a little uncertain when dealing with kids, and they were very open to learn.”

Dr. Barbar enjoyed training the nurses and wanted to dive deeper into medical education. She began the Gordon Center fellowship in September 2023 and will stay in Miami for a year.

“I’m getting experience on how to use simulation in different settings for different levels of expertise—medical students, residents, postdocs,” she said. “It’s similar to what we plan to do back home.”

Her Gordon Center training is expanding her understanding of educational theory so, upon returning to Brazil, she’ll be able to objectively review her own training efforts.  

“I was trying to teach too many things at once,” said Dr. Barbar. “I thought I had to cover all the information, but now I see that’s not how retention works. I need to focus on smaller bites.”

Preparing Medical Students for Difficult Conversations

Dr. Barbar was particularly impressed by the Gordon Center’s classes for incoming medical students. Many were clinically focused, but one covered difficult conversations and helped students set boundaries with patients, peers and attending physicians. The class used four uncomfortable scenarios to illustrate communication challenges and highlight possible responses.

Gordon Center fellow Samia Medeiros Barbar, M.D.
Dr. Barbar says her Gordon Center fellowship has given her the skills and knowledge to objectively assess her own training methods.

“I had moments in my own training when I went through all those things, and I could remember how unprepared I felt, and how small,” said Dr. Barbar. “During the debriefing, they shared communication skills and how to deal with each situation. I thought, ‘I need to take this back home.’”

The fellowship is also helping Dr. Barbar understand how soft skills like communication augment technical capabilities. As a pediatric cardiologist, she must be as adept at learning from her patients as she is at placing stents.

Dr. Barbar is working on her Ph.D. and will incorporate simulation and education into her dissertation. She is eager to share what she is learning, which dovetails nicely with the Gordon Center’s mission.

“These fellowships give us a great opportunity to spread the word about education and simulation, and how those can really improve patient care,” said Dr. Scalese. “It also builds a worldwide community. We see former fellows at conferences, and it’s just a great feeling to see how well they’ve done. Hopefully, we’ve played a small part in that.”

Tags: Dr. Ross Scalese, Gordon Center for Simulation and Innovation, medical education, simulation-based training