For December’s Resident Spotlight, we interviewed Dr. Danny Mansour. Dr. Mansour is PGY-3 in Dermatology with a passion for teaching, and we had a great time chatting with him about his experience teaching Dermatology to fellow residents all across Canada.
COVID has caused rapid shifts in many aspects of our lives, and for residents, this includes teaching. How have you found teaching to have evolved in the era of COVID? What are some educational tools that can help address the challenges brought forth as a result?
It goes without saying that COVID has impacted us in a number of different ways both personally and professionally. One aspect that has been felt amongst many of my resident colleagues is the impact it has had on the educational component of our residency. Academic half days have had to be adapted and restructured to a virtual platform, conferences and exams have been cancelled and/or delayed, and clinical experiences have had to be reshuffled. With many services being redeployed to COVID teams, it has been challenging for residency programs and program directors to balance service demands with educational requirements during a pandemic.
Education in the era of COVID has shifted. We have largely all moved from in-person teaching sessions to online learning through Zoom/Webex or other online platforms to adhere to physical distancing. While we may have lost the in-person, social aspect of teaching and “Zoom burnout” is something to always be cognizant of, we have also gained several benefits:
- The ability to partake in academic activities from the comfort of our own home—especially important for those with small children, but also a change that has been anecdotally enjoyed by many colleagues from a personal wellness perspective.
- The increased flexibility that staff physicians have in balancing teaching with their busy clinical duties—online learning allows for educators to teach from their clinic rather than requiring them to commute onsite to deliver the material.
- The ability to explore a new means of collaborative teaching from experts throughout Canada—through the online platform, the Dermatology programs can attest to the undeniable value of being able to learn from experts in various Dermatologic specialties from coast to coast through our national initiatives.
- The flexibility to review material taught at a later date—through the online platform, lectures are recorded at the discretion of the presenter and can be viewed at your leisure.
- The ability to virtually meet our colleagues across Canada fostering increased collegiality.
These are only a few of the benefits that this era of online learning has brought forth, and platforms like Zoom are only one of the educational tools that has helped address the challenges we have faced. Other tools include the sli.do platform, which can be integrated with Google Slides and PowerPoint presentations allowing you to pose questions/engage the audience during presentations, and Kahoot, another game-based learning platform. Beyond this, even within the Zoom platform, breakout rooms can be used to simulate a small group learning environment.
Overall, despite the challenges that COVID19 has brought with regard to meeting the educational needs of residents at a time when our service is paramount, I can speak for the Dermatology programs alone and say we have been able to maintain a high level of teaching through it all. This has been possible thanks to the fantastic leadership from our national Program Directors, the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA), the CDA Resident and Fellow Society, and countless staff Dermatologists who have volunteered their time to teach.
You are spear-heading the Resident Academic Study Hour (RASH), a national Dermatology lectures series for Dermatology residents all across Canada. That’s a lot of residents! How did you find yourself taking up this position, and what has the experience been like for you?
I can say without doubt that this has been one of the most rewarding initiatives that I have been involved in as part of my residency. The RASH series is a curriculum whereby new Dermatology graduates within the last 1-5 years provide a 1-hour lecture on ~30 self-made, high-yield questions. This initiative stemmed from what the CDA-RFS had planned for the Annual CDA Conference: a single 1-hour, in-person session on high yield questions to guide studying. It has since transformed into a 17 lecture series attended by nearly 50-60 residents per session (sometimes as many as 80!), with over 400 questions that residents can look back on for added practice for years to come.
One unique aspect of this series is that we began to employ the use of the sli.do platform in addition to Zoom, whereby residents are able to anonymously submit their answers to questions posed by the lecturer in real-time. This not only provides residents in all levels of training practice in committing to an answer, but the anonymity creates a safe space for people to answer without judgement. Beyond that, as the answers are submitted in real-time, the lecturers are able to evaluate the responses looking at common themes which helps to guide discussion. Lastly, it also gives new Dermatology graduates an opportunity to give back and teach the next generation of clinicians.
It has definitely been a lot of work in recruiting lectures, generating the sli.do questions for the lecture itself, and uploading the recorded lectures and slides for residents unable to attend the sessions at the specified time, but I’ve had a great deal of help from my Co-Chair and the CDA-RFS Executive team; the lecturers have also been so fantastic! The most rewarding part of this initiative has been having dermatology residents across Canada reach out and tell us how helpful this series has been in preparation for their Royal College Examination. Even more so, some Dermatology residents have expressed interest in being involved in this initiative as lecturers once they have graduated. That aspect of inspiring collaboration and giving back to the community has made this experience incredibly worthwhile.
Do you have any words of advice for residents who wish to plan similar initiatives on a local or national scale?
My first piece of advice would be that if you’re passionate about teaching and medical education, take some time to think about how you want to be involved and how it fits into your personal and professional life. Do you want to do something smaller on a more local scale and teach your resident colleagues, or do you want to be involved in a larger, more collaborative initiative? Who do you want your target audience to be? What time commitment are you able to dedicate towards teaching initiatives—once a week, once a month, or a few times a year? I think once you’ve taken some time to reflect on these, you can then begin to execute similar initiatives.
On a more local scale, I would reach out to your resident colleagues, chief residents, and program directors—both within and outside of your own program—to understand how best you can be involved. In my experience, people are generally quite receptive to those who express an interest in teaching. As an example, after having completed 3 months of inpatient Dermatology at VGH, I took some time to reflect: which service consulted the inpatient Dermatology team the most often, and what were the most common reasons for referral? For me it was the Internal Medicine team and, in collaboration with their academic half day educational lead, I delivered 3 lectures to address these knowledge gaps. With the online platform, I was afforded flexibility in delivering these teaching sessions outside of the normal time. In soliciting feedback (another key aspect of education), the lectures were well-received, and I now plan to do similar lectures in the future. Overall, you gain so much because not only are you able to teach your colleagues, but in doing so you indirectly improve patient care.
Now, if you’re looking to plan something that is more national, the key to success in planning these initiatives is collaboration. None of the national Dermatology initiatives that we have launched over the last year, with the RASH series being only 1 of 4, would have been possible without the help of the Dermatology Program Directors, the CDA, the CDA-RFS, countless Dermatology staff, and others. Similarly to initiatives on a more local scale, it is still important to define your educational goal, your target audience, the method of content delivery, and the time commitment you can afford. When looking to involve others, start small and send feelers out within your own program to see who else may be interested in being involved. Connect with residents in other programs across provinces to gain insight on similar interest around the country, and pretty soon you will be able to more concretely curate a “curriculum” utilizing experts from coast to coast. Lastly, and most importantly, don’t forget to have fun! With the challenges that COVID has placed on our personal and professional lives, initiatives like these—although time intensive—should not feel like more work. Work hard, but have fun and enjoy the process.
You have a passion for teaching, a path which is both challenging and rewarding. What inspired you to start down this road? What have you found to be the rewards involved in teaching, whether to your own program or to those outside of it?
I think I draw inspiration from the fantastic teachers, mentors, and educators I have had throughout my medical training—seeing their excitement and enthusiasm in imparting knowledge and clinical pearls to the next generation of future clinicians is refreshing. Not only that, but the way that they teach—their ability to create a positive learning space for mistakes and growth without shame or judgement—is something that truly resonates with me. I would not be where I am today without these people.
Moreover, in medicine, I believe we each have a social responsibility to give back to our community in some capacity—whether it is through the teaching of medical students and residents, outreach clinics, providing care to more marginalized or rural communities, advancing the field of medicine through scholarly pursuits, or other means. For me, medical education is how I hope to give back and it has already proven to be extremely rewarding. Not only am I afforded the opportunity of teaching colleagues in other specialities to foster increased collegiality and ultimately improve patient care, but there is something to be said about watching someone have an “aha!” moment. That in and of itself is rewarding. Lastly, just as my mentors and educators have created a positive learning environment for me throughout my medical education, I would like to be a part of this new era that moves away from shame-based learning in the hopes that I can do for so many what others have done for me.