On October 1, 2018, Elizabeth Ryan, EdD, officially joined Indiana University School of Medicine as the new director and associate dean on the Northwest-Gary campus. Learn more about Ryan and how this Chicago native and first-gen college graduate will use her diverse and collaborative experiences in medical education to continue the Northwest-Gary campus’s commitment to preparing healers and transforming health in Indiana.
Tell us about your journey to medical education.
I am a first-generation college graduate. My first career choice was in education. If I’d stuck to my original plan, I might be a kindergarten or high school teacher right now. But my dad was a self-employed sales representative so getting a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising made sense for working with our family business. After graduating and working a few years, I still wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. My mother said, “If you don’t like where your life is, go take a class in something that interests you.” And that’s how I started taking classes again and got back into education.
As for how I became interested in the medical side of education, I worked for some time as a pharmacy tech and then as a claims coordinator. From there, I served as a residency coordinator for a family medicine program. In that job I had my “a-ha” moment and realized working in medical education was what I wanted to do with my life.
Employed full time during my master’s and doctoral studies in education at Loyola University Chicago, I worked hard as a first-generation student, and through a beautiful journey found my fit. I may not have had the most direct path to medical education, but the skills I learned working in sales and health care and my bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising have helped me throughout my career. As an extra bonus, I can organize a fashion show for any fundraising group.
What experience or collaboration are you most proud of?
This is like asking a parent who their favorite child is. I have been part of so many meaningful experiences, and collaboration has been a main theme of my work history. I have been extremely fortunate to collaborate on a number of projects that have created new models for teaching and have learned lessons from each experience.
A couple of examples I’d like to highlight:
Early in my career I worked on an initiative for the 80-hour work week mandates in resident education. At that time, I was a manager in surgical education overseeing the staff and was in graduate school for curriculum instruction. We redesigned the medical student surgery clerkships and the residency program at the same time and launched them on the same day. To effectively make these changes, we created a think tank with professionals from other disciplines, accreditation bodies and surgical educators.
A clerkship model I helped develop is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Focusing on longitudinal primary care training for medical students, a cohort of 16 students works together throughout the course of their entire medical education. The model also paired junior and senior students during clinic visits with patients, incorporating a peer mentoring component. I’m excited to see the promising research updates on the effectiveness of this model.
You’ve worked in many different areas of medical education. How will that be a strength in your new role?
There are very few things that I will ask staff to do that I haven’t done myself. Every job, degree and experience have contributed to my knowledge, skills and the generalist perspective that I have today:
Working as a pharmacy technician offered opportunities for inpatient and outpatient exposure.
Roles in medical billing created awareness of the struggles patient face accessing and paying for prescribed services.
As a student program coordinator, residency coordinator and manager of surgical education, I gained ground-floor perspective of medical education logistics and accreditation.
As a faculty member, I have learned how to effectively collaborate with and support my basic science, clinical and non-MD faculty peers. Together, we have worked side by side with a common goal to develop exceptional programs for medical educators, scientists and clinicians. Additionally, I am familiar with promotion and tenure practices, as well as rules and regulations for conducting research.
During my time collaborating across the medical education continuum, I have an understanding of where hand-off gaps and redundancies exist.
What attracted you to this role and IU School of Medicine?
IU School of Medicine’s commitment to innovation and using new technology.
I love figuring out the best ways to use technology in medical education. For example, I worked with a team to develop the Research Education Service Learning Initiative (RESLI) online learning platform. This program allowed us to provide training to 75 Family Medicine Residents on how to conduct research over the course of five years, which fulfilled their Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education area of scholarly concentration accreditation standard requirement. Now, I can’t wait to be a part of the innovative initiatives at IU School of Medicine.
IU School of Medicine’s culture. I am looking forward to joining the IU School of Medicine family and have already received a warm welcome. I’m excited about the school’s rich history, clear mission and core values.
My connection with the area. My family lives in the Chicago and Northwest Indiana area, so I have a strong connection to serving this community. Even though I’m moving to the Gary area, it will be easy to stay connected with my family, which is important to me.
The unique leadership opportunity to tackle current medical education issues locally, regionally and nationally. With my diverse background in medical education, I am prepared for the challenge of coordinating a complex organization and meeting the needs of the Northwest-Gary community, as well as IU School of Medicine’s staff, faculty and learners. I’m looking forward to representing the region in senior leadership and professional society meetings.
What are your leadership vision and goals for the Northwest-Gary campus?
Leadership occurs at all levels. I believe in empowering individuals to work at the top of their license/position and providing credit, coupled with accountability. We are stronger as a team than as individuals. I will spend time early on getting to know IU School of Medicine and community partners. As a team, we will create short-term and long-term goals aligned to IU School of Medicine’s strategic plan that serve our learners, the people of Indiana and beyond.
How do you envision working with students and faculty to strengthen health care in Northwest Indiana?
Born and raised in the Chicago area, I am familiar with the unique needs of the Northwest-Gary community. My experiences with federally qualified health centers in Illinois will also help me develop strong student and faculty relationships with community hospitals in the area.
As a leader, I will be advocate. Whether it’s for faculty, staff, students, patients or the Northwest-Gary community, I will always consider their voices and needs in decision-making. I welcome input from all constituents and will have an open-door policy.
Do you have any fun or interesting facts to share about yourself?
Family is a big deal. I have two sisters, and we are very close. We are often referred to as the “Ryansisters.” I have biological family members and family I have chosen. I look forward to expanding my chosen family to include individuals at IU School of Medicine.
I also love creative outlets. I enjoy photography and creating videos. I have painted ceramics and made quilts (with a sewing machine). I love watching the sunset and look forward to walks on the beach near IU School of Medicine’s Northwest-Gary campus.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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