As at most universities, MUHAS recruits faculty for their scientific and academic merit rather than for their educational expertise. The development of the new competency-based curriculum and its new teaching requirements demonstrated the need for MUHAS to support faculty to develop their educational skills. UCSF similarly trains and mentors its faculty in education and recognizes excellence in teaching. We nurtured the creation of a group of young teaching faculty to lead faculty development at MUHAS.
MUHAS leadership recruited nine mid-level clinical faculty with interest and aptitude in education, from all schools, to undergo training in curriculum development and evaluation, student instruction and assessment, and academic leadership. The training of the Health Professions Educators Group (HPEG), as these faculty became known, included an intensive two-week course at MUHAS, led by educational experts from UCSF, MUHAS and the University of Dar es Salaam followed, two months later, by a two-week visit to UCSF to learn from the educational process there. Subsequently, five basic science faculty joined the HPEG after a two-week study visit to UCSF. The HPEG are now mentoring other faculty to join the group.
With UCSF educators, the HPEG developed a programme to provide faculty with the skills they need to teach the new curricula and to assess students in their achievement of competencies. The workshops, offered by the HPEG in 2010/2011, include competency-based education, large group teaching, clinical teaching, effective mentoring, designing multiple choice exams, teaching procedural skills, and writing objectives. In the first year, nearly half the faculty body, across all schools and institutes, attended at least one workshop. Evaluations of the sessions have been positive, with requests to repeat certain workshops and to expand the range of topics covered.
If trained and mentored, postgraduate students can serve as teaching assistants and near-peer educators, and could be tempted to become future faculty. MUHAS asked the HPEG, working with UCSF educators, to develop a course for post-graduate students in instruction, assessment and curriculum development. In the 2010/11 second semester, the HPEG piloted this course and postgraduates from across the professions attended enthusiastically, on a voluntary basis. The HPEG will deliver this course to all MUHAS postgraduates in the 2011/2012 academic year and evaluate its effectiveness.
It can be daunting for young doctors posted to rural hospitals to undertake their first surgeries. Three MUHAS surgical faculty and a UCSF clinician developed an innovative way to teach medical students to develop basic surgical skills. In a classroom, using PVC and foam, they simulated the skin and tissue on which students could learn to make incisions, suture and tie knots, using actual surgical instruments; and using a bicycle inner tube, they learned to perform bowel excisions. All medical students at MUHAS now pass through this “surgical skills laboratory” at the start of their surgery rotation, so that they can practice new techniques ethically and safely before entering the operating theatre. Feedback from students has been positive and preliminary results shows that practicing in such a laboratory helps students learn and retain surgical skills.