IU School of Medicine students sit down for 'Supper With the Dean'

May 22, 2014

One of the best ways to get to know someone is to come together over a meal, which is why the head of the IU School of Medicine has chosen supper as the way to meet those whose futures are formed under his leadership.

IU School of Medicine students are sitting down with Jay L. Hess, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the IU School of Medicine and IU associate vice president for university clinical affairs. "Supper With the Dean" is a series of casual early-evening gatherings in Fairbanks Hall to learn more about IU medical students' goals for their education, their careers and beyond.

"I greatly enjoy meeting with our students, learning about their experiences and having the opportunity to discuss topics that are important to them," Dr. Hess said. "I'm impressed at how much they know about the challenges and opportunities we're facing; we're having some great discussions."

First-year medical students met with Dr. Hess on April 9. Fourth-year students met Feb. 25. Second- and third-year students are scheduled to join him for supper June 11 and Aug. 12. The series was created under the guidance of Maryellen E. Gusic, M.D., executive associate dean for educational affairs at the IU School of Medicine.

"The series provides an opportunity for students to learn from, and learn about, our new dean," Dr. Gusic said. "It's important to all of us that our students feel connected to the School of Medicine and that they know we are here for them. Honestly, getting to know the students is one of the great joys associated with our jobs. I was delighted to know that Dr. Hess was interested in starting this tradition."

Some of the topics discussed at the first session with fourth-year medical students were the dean's vision for the future of the IU School of Medicine as well as advice for new physicians entering the next phase of their careers. This included reflections on Dr. Hess' own time as a resident, such as a memorable moment when the chair of his department invited him to participant in an important meeting with faculty and administrators.

"He described this as a moment that we should always approach with a 'yes' attitude," said Zahab Ahsan, M.D., who will soon join the University of Washington-Seattle as a resident in orthopedic surgery. "It's really our responsibility to make the most of our opportunities, especially in interaction with leadership. I left feeling pretty enlightened."

Dr. Hess also talked about the "dynamics of the mentor-mentee relationship" and his own path to serving as the 10th dean of the IU School of Medicine. At the start of his career, he never anticipated taking on such a leadership role, but he approaches it with excitement and a sense of great responsibility.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was also a major topic of conversation among the students and the dean, who said he "couldn't imagine anything more relevant to future physicians."

"We talked a lot about the triple aim of health care -- the experience of providing care, improving the health of populations and reducing per capita costs of health care -- as well as the importance of addressing health care inequality wherever our careers take us," said Andrew Krack, M.D., who participated in the session for fourth-year medical students. He plans to a pursue a fellowship in pediatric cardiology with a focus in public health after his time as a pediatric resident at Children's Hospital Colorado, so the subject held a special interest for him.

The opportunity to meet directly with the leader of the second-largest medical school in the country was also a learning experience for the first-year medical students who participated in April's session.

"As first-year medical students, we're regularly asked by family, friends and patients about our thoughts on the ACA and what we're being taught about it," said Michael Johnston, who serves as president of the IUSM Class of 2017. "Dr. Hess did an excellent job presenting the material to us and explaining the reasons behind the proposal of the ACA, how it will affect health care, and its impact on the future of medicine. We were extremely excited and anxious to learn more about the policies that will make major changes in the health system while we're in school."

"IUSM's really lucky to have someone of Dr. Hess' caliber leading us during this period of major flux within medicine," Dr. Krack added. "An organization's culture starts at the top. Dr. Hess is setting a great precedent by carving out regular time to meet with students."

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