Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Lianne Marks, Assistant Dean in Education Development at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine

Thasin Jaigirdar
Published on Apr 1, 2015. Updated on Invalid date.

Dr. Marks is an Internal Medicine physician at Scott & White Healthcare and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Round Rock.  She is currently the regional chair in Internal Medicine as well as Assistant Dean in Educational Development for the College of Medicine.  Dr. Marks initially graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville with a degree in Molecular Neuroscience.  She received her medical degree from the University of Miami Medical School in 2004 and her Ph.D. degree in Immunology at the same institution in 2002.  She completed her Internal Medicine internship and residency in 2007 at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.  Dr. Marks is board certified in Internal Medicine.

How did you get interested in medicine?

Quite honestly, I’m not sure why everyone with an interest and love of learning doesn’t fall in love with the workings of the human body, what is more fascinating than that?   On the other hand, I am certainly happy that different things appeal to different individuals.  A world full of only doctors would not be helpful either.   But this is how it was for me; attraction to medicine was an automatic love.  I wanted to have the capability to explore this topic on multiple levels, which is why I decided to get a joint degree.

What had driven your interest in Internal Medicine?
I get asked this question a lot by students I am interviewing for medical school.  I suppose this is in part because they are already planning what their next step would be if they were accepted.   I chose Internal Medicine because I enjoy systems thinking and problem solving.  I could never just be a cardiologist, for example, and not be interested or explore how the heart problem a patient may have impacts other organs of the body. I never want to close my mind off to the person as a whole.

What has been the most gratifying experience of your career? How about the most challenging?
I am very grateful for what I am able to do on a daily basis, working with patients and medical students.    But, my most gratifying moment is hopefully yet to come.  Much of the career of a physician-scientist is preparation.   Preparation is important but also very challenging, and sometimes involves treading through bureaucracy, and persistence in overcoming obstacles.  As Dr. Francis Collins from the NIH once said, ‘it is easier to sequence the human genome than to change one hour of medical school training.’  Patience is not my greatest virtue, but I continue to learn how to wait when necessary.

How do you foresee medical education changing over the next few years? Also, what are two or three things you would change with the way physicians are currently trained?
I have been part of the team at Texas A&M College of Medicine working on medical education reform.  The school has worked hard to create an improved curriculum with more clinical relevance and better learning opportunities for its students.  Healthcare is changing rapidly and medical education needs to keep up even though change is always difficult.    We have to continually focus on quality improvement in medical education.  What is working, how is it working, and can we make it better? What is not working, and how can we make it better or get rid of it?  I believe we are more focused now on producing critical thinkers and lifelong learners.  We can no longer expect students will receive every answer in medical school.  Instead, we have to ensure that they know how to find answers and critically appraise the information they are sorting.

What are you currently working on with regard to Educational Innovation?
Besides working on the new curriculum for the College of Medicine, I have the fortune to attend a Harvard Macy course later this year on Leading Innovations in Health Care and Education that I am very much looking forward to.  I hope to apply this training to some of my current team projects which include a leadership program curriculum designed for residents around the country and funded by the Physicians Foundation (and jointly developed by the Daniel Hanley Center for Health Leadership and Texas A&M College of Medicine with help from many other institutions). This will be completed by the end of this month.    Additionally, my team has just received a grant from Baylor Scott & White Health to work on incorporating Google Glass (in a HIPAA compliant fashion) into medical education and peer review.  I expect that the field of medical education and technology will only continue its rapid trajectory of change and I plan to keep venturing on this path to improve the student and patient experience.

What advice would you give college students considering a career in medicine?
Never do anything (including medicine or a specific subset of medicine or surgery) for the money or the lifestyle you think that a particular specialty might offer.  I’ve seen sufficient change in healthcare to be humble enough to say that prediction of the future is difficult at best.  Pick your field based on passion and dedication to an area.  That is the only thing that will sustain you long term.