Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Linda Brubaker, Dean of Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago

Thasin Jaigirdar
Nov 26, 2014

Dr. Linda Brubaker is the Dean and Chief Diversity Officer at Loyola University of Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine. Her clinical work fall in the line of Female Pelvis Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, combining the fields of uro-gynecology and urology. We are excited to be featuring her today in our Leaders in Medical Education Series. She can be followed on Twitter @stritchmeddean.

How did you decide on a career in Medicine and can you describe a bit about your background before becoming Dean of Loyola?

I had decided on a career in medicine when I was still in high school. Late during my high school career/early in my college career I was assisting a neighbor who was a physician in his orthopedic office. I was probably doing more there than I was rightfully allowed to do, but I realized I was good at what I was doing and it was enjoyable. That exposure that I had at the time drove me to wanting to pursue a career in medicine.

After college, I attended medical school and did my medical school residency and fellowship. I then served as a professor at Rush Medical College. In the year 2000, I moved to Loyola where I have been for more than 14 years now. I moved into the Dean’s office about halfway through my time at Loyola as a Research Dean. I then moved on to Senior Associate Dean for Research before they asked me to become a Dean of the Medical School.

How did you decide on your Specialty?

The subspecialty I got into was relatively new when I began my fellowship. People moved into the field from both urology and OB/GYN. The field I joined is called Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. The field was only recognized as a subspecialty recently. However, I have practiced it for the past 30 years.

I initially thought about getting into Orthopedics to focus specifically on Spine Curvatures. However, I was concerned about the tone of general surgery training and what it would do for me as a person. So, I moved to surgical OB/GYN then and was exposed to it more during my residency and decided it was a good for me. I preferred a surgical discipline and OB/GYN had a great focus there. This field was an unmet scientific need and very little scientific evidence existed there as well so the field was wide open for the development of educational opportunities. There was also a focus on helping women, so I knew it was a great fit.

What does an average day look like for you as a Dean and what are your goals?

My vision as Dean is to outline a strategic plan as we highlight our education and differentiate it from other institutions by focusing on healthcare disparities, endowment, population health, disseminated implementation science, tailored education, and social awareness with an emphasis on care for the poor. As a Jesuit medical school, our institution embraces social justice. We also advance education and research. We graduate about 160 Medical Students in various programs and provide excellent interdisciplinary training across the health science campus.

I myself am a morning person so my average day starts early. I get to work at 4:30 AM. I meditate for 20 minutes, work out and then finally have meetings starting at 6:30-7:00. I do some patient care certain days. The rest of my day is scheduled around project work, interactive meetings, all with an effort to move things forward as a result of our strategic goal. My day ends at 6:00 PM at night. I also tend to do some fundraising activities during the week and weekends.

What are two or three changes you would like to see in the way Physicians are trained today?

I would like to see costs go down for medical education. The number one thing is to align the cost of medical school with the way we train people. We would like to see the money put into training residents, the government support of training, to be moved to the medical school level so an we can even the economic field to people coming into medical school. As a result, people in a poor family do not have to deal with paralyzing debt from graduating. A more even playing field for people with more financial latitude to pick a specialty that aligns with their passions and not simply having to focus on what brings the biggest bucks will allow for more individuals to serve the underserved. The way this should work is that individuals instead take out loans for residencies but they then have some skin in the game. They can take the loans in an area to deal with the length for the curriculum. People will save more money if they choose shorter residencies, which are ones that support more primary care, a field where we need more physicians in anyway.

I would also like to see a more efficient use of education resources. For example in anatomy training, things have changed, but each year schools teach things and it takes a lot of time and resources to do it. There has to be a streamlined approach to do this. By having better online resources we can back off the lecture’s heavy formats which are not as good as they used to be.

The other thing I would like to see is for medical schools to enrich their curriculum by introducing social awareness of healthcare disparities. So, emphasizing on more than just the biological side, medical school students see how social economics affect access of treatments and outcomes as a result of health disparity related issues.

More and more medical students are currently getting additional advanced degrees (MPH, MBA, etc). What are your thoughts on this?

If people are creative and intentional about their choices of things, the addition of degrees beyond the MD could help improve our delivery and research. It’s not worth getting a degree for an academic advantage if it is not helpful. People need a mature approach to career planning and a view of their professional trajectory before taking it on.

An example of the benefit I see with an additional degree is that most traditional MDs are not trained in lab sciences, so they might not make the best research partners. They don’t have what it takes to understand things outside of their clinical area. So, exposure to the broader science or an in-depth delivery that a PhD in Clinical Research will have will be advantageous to high quality research.