Category School News
Author Karen Blum

The Johns Hopkins Master of Education in the Health Professions program celebrates its decennial class in 2020–2021. Several initiatives are rolling out across the year, and the decennial celebration will culminate in the biennial summer conference in July.

A Long-Awaited Beginning

MEHP enrolled its first class of 31 students in fall 2011, says MEHP Program Director Toni Ungaretti, PhD. But the program’s seeds date back to 1993, when Modena Wilson, MD, MPH, a Johns Hopkins professor of pediatrics, studied adult learning under Ungaretti. Wilson shared that she believed all physicians needed to understand learning theory and adult development, and invited Ungaretti to lead a series of clinical teaching workshops in the Department of Pediatrics, which still continue.

Ungaretti was impressed with physicians’ hunger for this learning and joined efforts with John Shatzer, PhD, director of medical education at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and now a faculty member for MEHP. John was interested in developing a formal program to advance medical education competence. In the late 1990s, Ungaretti and Shatzer piloted a co-taught class Shatzer developed for medical educators called MedEd 101. This course set the foundation for an academic program that previously had two false starts.

Finally, in 2008, the School of Education renewed its interest in establishing the master’s program. Shatzer by then had moved to Vanderbilt, and Ungaretti then served as assistant dean for the Office of Learning at the new Carey Business School.

Faculty from Johns Hopkins’ schools of Education, Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, and Business (then represented by Ungaretti) conducted a needs assessment, benchmarked existing programs, and developed a proposal for a program. John Flynn, MD, MBA, a School of Medicine professor of medicine, insisted the program be a Master of Education in the Health Professions degree, emphasizing education. Flynn and the late Lisa Heiser, then assistant dean for faculty development at the School of Medicine, advocated for a partnership of the deans and the provost to lend initial funds to launch the program.

All systems were go, and Ungaretti told Mariale Hardiman, then interim School of Education dean, “It’s finally going to launch and I’m in the wrong school.” Betsy Lowry, the School of Education project lead, decided to take a leave of absence. Hardiman then asked Ungaretti if she would like to return to the School of Education to lead the program.

Ungaretti then embarked on recruitment of both fellows and faculty, with Flynn’s support. She identified executive and curriculum development committees; attended School of Medicine department and board meetings to promote the program; and established partnerships with the Johns Hopkins Simulation Center, the libraries, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Excellence in Education, and the Center for Technology in Education.

The first year’s classes were taught in person in the evenings at the Simulation Center in the Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center. MEHP Instructor Anne Belcher, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN, was part of the planning committee and taught one of the first courses with Linda Adamson from the School of Education.

“We loved it, and I think students enjoyed the face-to-face interaction,” Belcher says. “But it became obvious that if we wanted to have students beyond Johns Hopkins that we needed to go online.”

The online program launched a year later, in fall 2012, enveloping the on-site program. Faculty from the five partner schools plus additional faculty experts and MEHP alumni teach in the program and lead the various initiatives.

A Growing and Diverse Student Body

It’s been “beyond thrilling” to watch the program grow, Ungaretti says. Margaret “Maggie” Shamer joined as program administrator in 2012 to focus on recruitment and support of fellows to grow and maintain the MEHP. Over the years, word of mouth has spread through alumni recruiting colleagues; Ungaretti and others presenting at educational and medical conferences domestically and abroad; and a robust online presence.

Faculty, fellows, and alumni connect for projects or convene at conferences around the world. An MEHP Program Evaluation study by the School of Medicine indicates that MEHP graduates have experienced accelerated career advancement, with many recruited for leadership positions and published in health professions education journals. They have been promoted in rank within their institutions, and several have become assistant or associate deans. Marjorie Jenkins, MD (MEHP ’15), became dean of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, in Greenville. Rachel Salas, MD (MEHP ’18), associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was selected as a prestigious 2019–2020 Macy Scholar.

Many others are leading educational initiatives in their respective departments, Ungaretti says. In response to the current COVID-19 crisis, several alumni and fellows have led their medical institutional initiatives to convert from in-class to online instruction. This includes Steve Sozio, MD (MEHP ’17), associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“Graduates report that when they speak in department meetings about education, others listen and compliment their ideas,” Ungaretti says. “It is like the investment broker E.F. Hutton’s old commercial slogan, ‘When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen!’”

A Worldwide Following

The program’s popularity has gone global. While a large percentage of fellows have been from the U.S. East Coast, there’s also been a contingent from across the U.S. and Canada, with others from Europe, Australia, Malaysia, Africa, South America, Singapore, and the Middle East. The asynchronous courses and work-related projects enable fellows to complete assignments in a manner compatible with their time zones and work/family schedules.

Professionals from a greater number of disciplines also have been attracted to the program, Belcher says. An education program that originally attracted primarily faculty at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine now enrolls nurses, pharmacists, dentists, and physician assistants. Last spring, a yoga therapist became an MEHP fellow.

“What really makes us unique is our absolute focus on interprofessional collaboration, education, research, and change agency,” Ungaretti adds. “Other programs say they do it, but nobody does it like we do. Some interprofessional programs have students take courses in medicine and others in education. The MEHP uniquely integrates faculty from multiple disciplines teaching interprofessionally—sharing the literature, experiences, and applications from multiple health perspectives in each class of fellows from varied health professions. It’s a very different kind of learning.”

The faculty’s years of experience is another drawing point, Belcher says. The program also features excellent instructional design and information technology support for faculty and for students.

“We’re always trying to be sure we’re up to the minute with the evidence that’s out there with the things we teach,” she says. “We really make sure that the students know this is not just anecdotal evidence; that we are constantly reviewing the literature to be sure that we have the strategies and experiences that are most relevant.”

Some fellows report experiencing fairly antiquated methods of instruction in their prior training, Belcher adds.

“When they generate their own projects, a number of them say, ‘I don’t want my students to go through what I went through,’ which is primarily sitting in a lecture hall taking notes,” she says. “The faculty is trying to be more innovative and creative, and responsive to the needs of today’s students.”

The Johns Hopkins schools of Medicine and Nursing also now have educator tracks for promotion, she says. For those who don’t see themselves doing clinical research, the program provides the skills and opportunities to do educational research toward that end.

The program has grown again recently, with the addition of Emily Jones, EdD, a full-time faculty member supporting the educational research aspect of the mission; Sadik Bulut, PhD, an instructional designer supporting and advancing technology capability; and Tammy Pedrick, a program coordinator building strong internal processes to support fellows, faculty, and alumni.

Going forward, Ungaretti says, “Our future is expanding interprofessional health professions education to prepare a new kind of transformational teacher who sees beyond their discipline and rises to the challenge of leading profound and unexpected change. We will identify and nurture the vision, confidence, inspiration, systemic action, and competence they need as leaders of a complex and rapidly evolving population-based health care environment. Our faculty and alumni are poised to join us in this effort.”

MEHP Decennial Celebration Schedule

Summer 2020
New MEHP LinkedIn Site
New MEHP Handbook

Fall 2020
Fall Decennial Newsletter
MEHP Leaders’ and Change Agents’ Testimonials

Spring 2021
MEHP on the Front Line of COVID: The Crises and Opportunity – Webinar Montage of Congratulations
Alumni Honors and Awards on the MEHP Website
Spring Decennial Newsletter
All MEHP Graduates and Alumni Celebration

Summer 2021
New MEHP Alumni Directory
Biennial Summer Conference and Decennial Celebration

MEHP Fact Box

Early champions of the program included John Flynn, now chief physician and dean for clinical affairs at the University of Chicago; Patricia Thomas, now vice dean of medical education at Case Western Reserve University; David Kern, now professor of medicine emeritus at Johns Hopkins; Stephen Teret, now professor emeritus at the Bloomberg School of Public Health; Laura Morlock, now executive vice dean for academic affairs at the Bloomberg School of Public Health; the late Lisa Heiser, former assistant dean for faculty development and equity at the School of Medicine; Joseph Cofrancesco, director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Excellence in Education; Elizabeth “Betsy” Hunt, director of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Simulation Center; and Ann “Betsy” Lowry, now associate director of the Center for Technology in Education at the Johns Hopkins School of Education.

Since its inception, the MEHP program has awarded 126 MEHP degrees and 21 evidence-based teaching certificates.

The number of countries represented by MEHP Fellows, including the U.S., is 17.

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