Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Juan Cendán, Director of the Clinical Skills and Simulation Center at UCF College of Medicine

Lisa Brubaker
Sep 10, 2015

It was a pleasure to interview Dr. Juan Cendán. In addition to his clinical and academic responsibilities, Dr. Cendán also helped develop NERVE, a suite of tools and a library of interactive virtual patients available at no cost for both medical education and research purposes.

How did you first become interested in medicine? Medical education?
Dr. Cendán was “loosely drawn” to the medical field; in fact, it wasn’t until he was about to graduate from Tulane University with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering that he decided to apply to medical school. Dr. Cendán credits his decision to the powerful feeling of knowing that he would be able to help people with his knowledge. His lifelong interest in science coupled with his desire to “understand something deeply” also influenced him to pursue a career in medicine. As Dr. Cendán progressed through medical school, he faced a tough decision when it came time to apply to residency programs. Dr. Cendán loved all of his clerkships and could see himself practicing many specialties. Dr. Cendán remembered a longtime friend whose father was a surgical pioneer. In fact, his friend’s father performed the first kidney transplant in Southeast Asia as a US military surgeon during the Vietnam War. Colorful anecdotes like this one ignited Dr. Cendán’s passion for surgery. That passion, combined with the joy of treating a patient with his own two hands, ultimately led Dr. Cendán to specialize in surgery.

Dr. Cendán realized his passion for teaching during residency. From the beginning, Dr. Cendán capitalized on opportunities to teach fellow members of the healthcare team. He quickly began to gain recognition for his excellence in teaching. Always reflective, Dr. Cendán was frustrated most when a preceptor missed an opportunity to create a learning experience. To prevent other students from experiencing these same frustrations, Dr. Cendán endeavors to use relatively straightforward procedures, such as intestinal anastomoses, to teach not only surgical skills but also embryology, pathophysiology and management of complications. To this day, Dr. Cendán enjoys teaching regardless of whether he is helping his sons construct something in the garage or showing a future surgeon how to hold a scalpel.

You have a lot of experience as the Medical Director of the Clinical Skills and Simulation Center and also as the Assistant Dean for Simulation. What are some of the successes and challenges you have faced in integrating medical simulation with the traditional medical education curriculum?
Dr. Cendán has had many successes working with the UCF COM faculty to integrate medical simulation into the pre-clinical curriculum and notes that many professors are excited learn about the different ways that medical simulation can be used to complement traditional medical education. The major challenges to increasing the number of medical simulation experiences for medical students are: 1) limited formal instructional hours and 2) the availability of faculty and staff. Dr. Cendán notes that simulation is an ideal resource to practice psychomotor skills and team dynamics and hopes to increase the number of medical simulation experiences for students during their clinical rotations.

NERVE is an “all-in-one” learning station that provides users the ability to learn about and practice interviewing, examining, and diagnosing patients with cranial nerve disorders. How did you become involved with this project? How do you see this tool being used in the future of medical education?
Dr. Cendán was fortunate to be in the “right place at the right time” when he met Benjamin Lok, Ph. D, a computer engineer working on patient avatars. Dr. Cendán and Dr. Lok’s collaboration resulted in an “all-in-one” learning center that allows students to interact with virtual patients. It was Dr. Cendán’s idea to generate virtual patients who could demonstrate cranial nerve palsies because neither standardized patients nor manikins could demonstrate these disorders, and because the cranial nerve exam can be performed almost completely without touching the patient. NERVE is a free educational resource which Dr. Cendán hopes medical students will use to become proficient at diagnosing cranial nerve disorders. This is a critical skill as misdiagnosing a cranial nerve disorder can have significant consequences on a patient’s life.

One of your other research projects, PROMOBES (Professional Mobile Monitoring of Behaviors), is an app that preceptors can use to evaluate students in real time. What are some of your goals for this research?
According to Dr. Cendán, one of the underlying questions of this research project is “Can you mold professionalism or are students already professionally developed upon their arrival at medical school?” To answer this question, Dr. Cendán is conducting a longitudinal study on certain attitudes and behaviors that guide professionalism, including the roles of positive mentoring and prompt feedback on professional development. The PROMOBES web app allows a preceptor to evaluate a student immediately based on six professional attributes: 1) reliability and responsibility, 2) self-improvement and adaptability, 3) relationships with faculty, staff and patients, 4) upholding medical student principles, 5) relationships with care team members, 6) commitment to scholarship and advancing the field. One of the glories of this app is that most physicians have their phones with them at all times, thus enabling a preceptor to evaluate a student in real time. Therefore the PROMOBES app prevents preceptors from missing opportunities to evaluate their students. Ultimately Dr. Cendán hopes the PROMOBES app will be incorporated throughout the healthcare system to promote professional development among students, physicians, nurses, etc.

Do you have any final thoughts regarding the medical profession as a whole?
Medicine has provided Dr. Cendán with an opportunity to help others while considering interesting challenges and how to address them. In Dr. Cendán’s own words, “It’s the greatest gig—ever”