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Office of Surgical Education Spotlight - Dr. Elliot Asare

Elliot Asare chosen as the SOM Domain Expert on Professionalism

Elliot Asare, MD, MS is an Assistant Professor in the Section of Surgical Oncology within the Division of General Surgery. He practices both at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Intermountain Healthcare Center in Murray.

Dr. Asare’s research interests include improving cancer data quality, cancer staging, prognostication, surveillance, clinical trials and outcomes research. He was recently selected to serve as the Professionalism Domain Expert for the School of Medicine. We reached out to find out more of what his goals are for this Professionalism program, and how University of Utah, generally, and this Professionalism program, specifically, is a great fit for his career goals.

Q: You’ve had an opportunity to study and train in several areas of the United States. What drew you to University of Utah and the west?

Dr. Asare: The people I met when I interviewed here really impressed me. They are all very highly accomplished individuals in their endeavors but they seemed genuinely interested in me as a person and in helping me grow and excel as an academic surgeon.

I also saw many opportunities for research given the unique geographic location of the University and Huntsman Cancer Institute. The strong support for research from our Department and opportunities to collaborate with experts from across the University was also a big draw.

Q: Professionalism is important in any industry; what are your thoughts on the importance of Professionalism as it relates specifically to the healthcare sector?

Dr. Asare: Professionalism is central to who we are and what we do as physicians. It embodies what society and patients expect from us—virtues and behaviors AND what we become—our identity development as physicians.

Professionalism is particularly important in medicine because people come to us at their most vulnerable moments and share with us information that they may otherwise not reveal to anyone with the expectation that we will be able to use our knowledge and skills to help them. While we strive to preserve this special relationship with the patient and subsequently society at large, we should also reflect on how to help colleagues who experience lapses in professionalism as well as taking care of ourselves so we are better able to serve our patients.

Q: For those of us who aren’t familiar, can you tell us a little bit about what it means to be a “Domain Expert” for the SOM?

Dr. Asare: Harper Davison, our Core Educator Program Manager, says it best: Domain experts are responsible for the planning, evaluation, and implementation of instruction and assessment in their domains across all four years of the UUSOM curriculum. Our Domain Experts are part of our Core Educator community. The Core Educators are responsible for crafting learning environments that deliver value to students by promoting higher levels of learning and professionalism, which ultimately lead to better patient care.

Q: What are your short-term goals for the program?

Dr. Asare: The immediate priority items are to help establish a reliable system for reporting on lapses in professionalism and creating a database to help track lapses in professionalism and remediation. This way, we will have an idea as to where the main areas of lapses are occurring in our students and can guide areas of emphasis in developing our curriculum. Additionally, a database of lapses and how they were remediated will inform us of our successes and failures and where to focus our efforts.

Q: How about your “five year plan” for expanding the program?

Dr. Asare: To create a curriculum for professionalism education across the four years of medical school training. Professionalism is already being taught in various ways at present but we would like to streamline it and make it more explicit. To engage our students to develop a curriculum relevant to them. In addition to classic focus on virtues and behaviors, we would like to make professional identity development a critical piece of the curriculum. We also want to find innovative ways of engaging students and faculty in discussing professionalism. We will also work with collaborators across the School of Medicine to provide effective ways of providing remediation for students who experience lapses in professionalism. Adopt relevant tools for assessing professionalism among our students. Also support students and student groups with interests in professionalism related topics.

Q: What challenges do you see for yourself in implementation?

Dr. Asare: The transition from 1st and 2nd year of medical school to clinical clerkships can present significant challenges to students with regards to professional identity development. I look forward to working with clerkship directors to find ways to help with professional identity development.

There is already a lot for medical students to know with regards to their traditional curriculum and we do not want to increase the workload. Therefore, we need to find innovative ways to engage them and to teach them about professionalism. As I mentioned earlier, aspects of professionalism are already covered in various courses so it will require excellent collaboration and coordination to avoid duplication of efforts.

Q: How can the Department of Surgery faculty assist you in meeting your goals?

Dr. Asare: Our Department of Surgery faculty have always shown a strong commitment to student education. Ways to contribute to the professional development of our students include but not are limited to: creating and ensuring a learning environment devoid of intimidation and abuse. An inclusive environment where students have roles as part of the team so they can learn and develop their identity as future physicians. Including professionalism topics/issues in the didactic sessions for students. Faculty can also help by reporting lapses in professionalism they observe so that appropriate steps to remediate the lapse can be instituted. We also hope to reach out to faculty volunteers to participate in discussions with students about their views on professionalism and some practical implications of professionalism in their role as surgeons.

Q: What are the top three things you hope the medical students will get out of this program?

Dr. Asare:

  1. Professionalism, like medical knowledge or technical skills, can be learned and improved as they progress through their education and training. We hope to facilitate this process.
  2. In line with the Dean’s focus on creating Exceptional Learning Environment at the SOM, we hope that creating a safe and reliable reporting system on issues of professionalism will be helpful to students so that issues or events that hinder their professional growth can be identified and resolved.
  3. A lapse in professionalism does not brand an individual as “bad” for the rest of their career. Establishing credible ways of helping students who have lapses in professionalism remediate and avoid future errors is important.

Q: Any final thoughts?

Dr. Asare: I look forward to collaborating with students, faculty and Deans across the SOM in my role.

Thank you so much, Dr. Asare, for your time and your insight.

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