Above: Jennifer Nicholas, MD, MHA
Jennifer Nicholas, MD, MHA, has always been drawn to teaching and a sense of fair play. Before attending medical school, Nicholas was a bilingual elementary school teacher in South Central Los Angeles. During her residency, she taught basic ultrasound skills to primary care physicians in Nicaragua and in a rural clinic in Kenya.
But Nicholas, who joined MIR in 2016, has also had a long-standing interest in using technology to improve radiology education. As a medical student, she won an award from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) for a computer-based program she developed to teach the BI-RADS lexicon. Eight years later, while teaching at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Nicholas developed an iPad-based curriculum to prepare radiology residents for independent call.
Today the assistant professor of pediatric radiology at MIR wants to improve the learning opportunities for the 18 radiology residents at L’Hôpital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti (HUEH) in Port-au-Prince. It’s the only radiology residency program in Haiti and its students have limited access to educational resources.
Opening Her Home
Nicholas first visited Haiti in spring 2013 with a group from the American College of Radiology. That’s when she became acquainted with its residents and medical students who were interested in the specialty. “Over the next three and a half years, I visited Haiti six times and hosted several Haitian radiology residents at my home in Chicago so that they could attend two major meetings, RSNA 2015 and the International Pediatric Radiology meeting in 2016.”
During those visits, Nicholas and the residents talked about their visions for radiology in Haiti. They wanted to elevate the specialty among referring physicians. They wanted to improve the radiology department at the general hospital (HUEH) where their program is based and they wanted to introduce a level of subspecialization in radiology that didn’t yet exist in Haiti. Much work was needed to realize these dreams, but it was clear to Nicholas that the residents were willing to meet the challenge. They just needed the resources.
Long Distance Learning
“Residents have a small library that consists of donated textbooks and an Apple iMac that wasn’t connected to the Internet until June 2017,” says Nicholas. “They spend their days performing and interpreting studies without attending radiologist input. Once or twice a day, an attending radiologist is available to review complex cases and to provide instruction and feedback.”
They lacked a structured curriculum that’s important for a radiologist in training, and Nicholas was determined to give it to them long-distance with a platform for interactive learning.
She applied for and was awarded a 2017 Education Scholar Grant from RSNA. With it, Nicholas purchased tablet computers and preloaded them with textbooks, presentations, articles, videos and a library of cases to create a dynamic educational toolbox for each student. Nicholas delivered the tablets on September 4, just days before Hurricane Irma swept over the island.
Building a Virtual Classroom
Though her trip was cut short due to the hurricane, Nicholas was there long enough to instruct residents on how to use the tablets and the applications they contained. She introduced them to components of the curriculum, including the “flipped classroom” model of learning, in which they will be sent cases to preview and evaluate independently before biweekly virtual conferences with Nicholas via Skype. With the help of a software representative, she built a secure network for residents to discuss cases with her at MIR.
Going the Distance
“Basically, I am facilitating the curriculum long distance,” says Nicholas. “Coming up with the schedule, gathering cases, giving feedback on reports and coordinating the lectures series, which is where residents, fellows and attendings from Mallinckrodt will be able to participate.”
If you have a case to share or want to present a lecture, email: firstname.lastname@example.org