Winter 2017
By Ben Feldheim
 
Joy LaCalamita pushes her wheeled walker next to a chair and table and sits down. The 66-year-old from Lake Barrington, Illinois, smiles at the five students who are seated around her in a classroom on the ninth floor of Rush’s Armour Academic Center. These students represent an array of Rush programs: physician assistant, general entry master’s in nursing, biotechnology and Rush Medical College. The five ask LaCalamita questions about her life, ranging from how she gets around her house to her doctor’s appointments and other aspects of her daily life. The students listen intently, smiling at times and nodding at others, as they learn about LaCalamita’s family, dogs and artwork, as well as the challenges she has faced since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer 12 years ago.
 
“I’m very good on the stairs, especially after I re-learned to walk,” LaCalamita said to the students. “I don’t see getting around as a challenge. It’s more like a puzzle that just needs the right combination of steps to be solved.”
 
It’s far too early in their education for this group of students — all in their first and second years — to offer any diagnosis or advice. Rather, the five are among 370 Rush students who are participating in a seminar to learn what life is really like for volunteers like LaCalamita, known as Health Mentors, who live with chronic conditions. The Health Mentors seminars began in 2015 as a way to bring students from all four Rush colleges together to build their understanding of how specific each patient’s individual experience is, both within and outside a medical institution. The seminar is among several efforts to weave interprofessionalism into Rush’s DNA, from first-year students all the way up to clinical practice and research. 
 
“Efforts like this not only help health care professionals see their patients as unique people, but it teaches them to work together with people from different disciplines,” said Joanne Miller, MSN ’76/CON, associate professor in adult health and gerontological nursing. “No single health care professional can provide for all of a patient’s needs. We all have to work as a team.”

We have a faculty so committed across all of our programs in the college that, while still maintaining their full-time responsibilities, they revamped the entire curriculum.

Charlotte B. Royeen, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Dean of the College of Health Sciences at Rush University

Campus-wide changes in education

There is a sea change happening at Rush, and interprofessionalism efforts like the Health Mentors seminar is one aspect. Innovations in education are happening throughout all four colleges. Classroom learning is being structured to focus more on experiential exercises and programs rather than lengthy lectures. More resources are being made available online for students to learn at their own pace and free up class time for practicing skills and methods. Simulation is expanding more into the students’
experiences. Colleges are finding ways to sustain research efforts even as National Institutes of Health grants become increasingly competitive, and curricula are going through complete overhauls.
 
“People are accustomed to the ‘sage on the stage’ approach to education, where the faculty stands in front of everyone and lectures,” said K. Ranga Krishnan, MB, ChB, the Henry P. Russe, MD, Dean of Rush Medical College and senior vice president of Rush University Medical Center. “Rather than that, we are working to create a ‘guide on the side’ so students can more actively learn and start applying it sooner rather than just listening to a lecture. By adopting this active learning approach, our students will be educated in an innovative and creative way that will then foster innovative and creative approaches throughout their careers.”

Preparing students to lead amid change

One of the major changes happening within the University is an effort to convert all four colleges to the same semester-based academic calendar. The College of Health Sciences and the Graduate College have reworked their curricula and schedules to fit the new timeframe.
 
“We have a faculty so committed across all of our programs in the college that, while still maintaining their full-time responsibilities, they revamped the entire curriculum,” said Charlotte B. Royeen, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, dean of the College of Health Sciences. 
 
The Graduate College took the opportunity to create a new degree program while reworking its curriculum. The Integrative Biomedical Sciences Degree track was created to instill in students the resiliency, critical analysis and strategic thinking needed for the quickly evolving field of biomedicine.
 
“We have to prepare scientists to be able to continuously learn, well after they leave here, and be ready if they change career paths during their lives, as is often the case with the biomedical field,” said James L. Mulshine, MD, acting dean of the Graduate College of Rush University and professor of internal medicine. “We want them to take a vast sea of information and synthesize it into usable principles and system models to solve complex problems.”

We’re not going to change health care — or poverty or any larger universal issue — if we don’t change health care education.

K. Ranga Rama Krishnan, MB, ChB, Henry P. Russe, MD, Dean of Rush Medical College

Resources to support evolving models

As Rush University continues to grow and expand, adding resources to simulation will remain a priority in service of students and faculty across all four colleges. Since opening in fall 2014, the Rush Center for Clinical Skills and Simulation has tripled the amount of simulation training that Rush can accommodate. 
 
“Clinical placements can be very competitive, and as we move to having fewer patients in hospitals, we can leverage simulation as an alternative approach that’s highly effective for teaching students through experiences,” said Marquis Foreman, PhD, RN, FAAN, the John L. and Helen Kellogg Dean of Rush University College of Nursing. 
 
Online learning is essential for students who need flexibility in their career development, especially postgraduate students, and Rush is a national leader in distance learning. To create even more effective online learning programs, College of Nursing faculty are now attending the Online Learning Consortium series to be certified in teaching online, giving them the refined skill set needed to develop curriculum for and instruct this new kind of student.
 
And as opportunity swells but research funding remains in short supply, finding innovative approaches to fund student research remains a top priority. The Graduate College proposed a way to provide in-house funding for 10 PhD students to pursue dissertation projects with faculty without having to worry about the ever-shrinking pool of available NIH funding to enable their efforts.
 
In the College of Nursing, the Golden Lamp Society — the donor recognition society for those who support the college at the level of $300 or more each year — awards research support to one DNP and two PhD nursing students annually. And each year, the Rush Medical College Alumni Association provides funding that allows 20 medical students, working alongside faculty, to pursue promising research opportunities through the Rush Medical College Summer Research Fellowship program. The top 20 student fellows are honored with the designation of Alumni Association Scholars. 
 
“It’s all interconnected,” Krishnan said. “We’re not going to change health care — or poverty or any larger universal issue — if we don’t change health care education.”
 
(From left to right) James Mulshine, MD, acting dean of the Graduate College and professor of internal medicine; Marquis Foreman, PhD, RN, FAAN, the John L. and Helen Kellogg Dean of Rush University College of Nursing; Charlotte B. Royeen, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, dean of the College of Health Sciences and A. Watson Armour III Presidential Professor; and K. Ranga Rama Krishnan, MB, ChB, Henry P. Russe, MD, Dean of Rush Medical College and senior vice president of Rush University Medical Center, are all developing innovative ways to educate at Rush.
In the Health Mentors seminars, volunteers like Joy LaCalamita (center) help students from all four colleges better understand the patient experience.
More opportunities for student-led discussion help Rush University students become active learners, equipped to apply information sooner.

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve witnessed in health care education? Tell us about it. #RushUMag