Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Linda Boyd, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine

Thasin Jaigirdar
Published on Apr 27, 2015. Updated on Invalid date.

Dr. Linda Boyd serves as the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. She received her bachelors from American university, her DO degree from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and has served as chief resident during her family medicine residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. She has previously served as the Acting Associate Dean for Curriculum at UMDNJ and an Associate Dean at Medical College of Georgia.

Can you share a bit on your background and how you got interested in medicine?
I got into medicine a different way than most do. I was a criminal justice major and was initially interested in that. I did always love math and science though and did well in those fields in high school and early in college. However, by my junior year I realized I wasn’t that stimulated by criminal justice, so I took biology and chemistry subjects for fun. I decided to switch majors and tried to decide what I wanted to do in a science career. I did want to work with people and help societies and individuals, so medicine became a logical and deductive choice. I did some volunteering and shadowing afterwards to make sure I was making the right choice. I started to become excited about a career and medicine and was lucky enough to get a spot in medical school.

How did you get involved in Family Medicine?
I was a typical family practitioner. I went through all rotations and loved them all. That’s what they say about family practice: if you love everything, do family medicine. I liked dealing with regular patients of all ages with problems, and I liked everything I could do with patients and help guide them. I could also do other work in areas like OB and women’s health as a family practitioner as well.

When I was in my residency, I was a chief resident. As part of our program, we were treated as if we were junior faculty. We were involved in meetings and curriculum development. I was really excited by that. My residency program offered me a faculty position upon graduation . It wasn’t something that I had planned, but it was the exposure during my residency experience that led me down this path. I’m 28 years in practice and have remained passionate about patient care. But, at my core I’m a teacher and a physician. The administrative path came later.

How was the transition to the administrative side of medicine?
If you had asked me 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have said that I wanted to be a dean, because I loved being a clinical faculty. The realization came that as an administrator/leader I could have a tangible influence on improving curricula and life for students as well as make a meaningful difference in a way I couldn’t as a faculty.

When I was transitioning from the faculty to the administrative side, half of the responses were from faculty saying congratulations, and the other half were condolences because I was going to the “dark side.” It was fascinating to me that there was a perception amongst the faculty that I had crossed over. I was determined to maintain my faculty-centeredness.

The main transition in administration for me was moving from a doer to a leader of people who do. I used to be a doer (graded OSCEs, wrote grants, wrote curriculums and cases, etc). But, now I have less time to do. I meet with people all day. My job is to set a vision and work with my team to accomplish that vision and meet with others to help pave the way for my team.to do their work.

What is the biggest challenge you face in Medical Education?
The biggest challenge I feel that exists I medical education is time. I have always worked hard and long hours and I haven’t been afraid to do that. My team sees that I am walking the walk and not just asking them to do a lot of work. I also want them to have a life outside of work, and I promote and support that atmosphere.

Time is an issue: there’s not enough of it. Clinical faculty especially are pulled into many directions and it is only getting worse. Getting clinical faculty to be able to devote time to teaching is getting harder each year. They are under pressure from the chairs to see patients and produce more revenue. Science faculties are pressured to get more revenue by securing more grants. Getting time allocation for education is a difficult for faculty.

Every school faces challenges in a different way with how they balance education time with revenue generation. For me, it’s a big struggle and it’s only getting harder. I see a wonderful faculty members who love teaching and choose to work in a medical school in order to teach. Unfortunately they aren’t allowed to give up their time from revenue generation to actually teach.

A commitment to education is needed. Deans are typically selected because they have a lot of research experience, grant-funding and have published a lot of papers, or are recognized in the scholarly world. They don’t typically get to be dean because they are just great teachers and educators. Finding an education-centered dean is hard.

A dean has a strong perspective on medical school priorities. They are under pressure to have a balanced budget, and the reality is that clinical revenue and grant revenue help infuse more revenue into a medical school. It’s a balance of how much time needs to be dedicated to education.

Although, as an educator and academic dean, I am biased because my job is to advocate for more resources dedicated to education. A research dean, for instance, would prefer more resources going into resources and that’s their job.

What does a typical day look like for you?
I meet with people all day from 7:30 AM to 5-6 PM. Only after that do I have time to do emails and follow-up on any to-dos from meetings and do some project work. It’s not ideal and it’s exhausting, but I did recently join this school and am still getting acclimated. I’m still working for some kind of balance.

How do you foresee medical education changing in the coming years?
I think healthcare will change dramatically in the next 10 years or so. Healthcare has been an industry slow to change. Given the expected changes going forward, I think as an educator we need to revamp medical education to meet the demands of a changing environment. We are making physicians who will be practicing for the next 40+ years, but the current healthcare environment will be non-existent then. Most medical schools are teaching how to be doctors for today, and not for the future. We don’t know what the future will look like, but we have some idea. We have to drastically change the entire medical education process to enable our students to adapt to a changing environment and lead the change. We will have to measure and study this as well.

What changes would you personally like to see in medical education?
I want to see students focus less on memorizing facts because it is so easy to get information. Memorizing facts is not very productive, because there is little long-term retention of that knowledge. We need to be more and more focused on problem solving and learning to differentiate between good and bad information in this Google world where everyone can find information.

Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share?
I think it is going to be an exciting next 20 or so years. I think a lot of things will change and I can’t wait to see what changes will happen. I am optimistic for our students because they are some of the best and brightest who are also very passionate with their work. We have a responsibility to create a wonderful education experience so that students will continue to display altruism and compassion towards their patients and remain passionate about their career in medicine.