Dr. Law gives the students another decision-making challenge, as well. They are given prices for the tests they would like to order, with the ultimate goal of formulating as specific a diagnosis as possible while also being as economical as possible. Afterward, the professor talks to the students about how to approach similar cases. “It’s a perfect teachable moment because the students have struggled during the case with something that’s unknown, with something for which they don’t know what the next steps are,” explains Dr. Law. “Then immediately after that, we follow with information on the most efficient way to answer that question.”
Dr. Law introduced the decision-based learning curriculum at Emory with just a few pilot classes early on. She was excited about the curriculum and wanted to study it in order to show if it was really helping students learn.
“If we want to be scholarly about this and provide the platform for this type of learning to be shared with other institutions, we need to have data to back that up,” she says.
As a result, Dr. Law decided to apply for the Rheumatology Research Foundation’s Clinician Scholar Educator award. The award provides funding for up to three years to educators who are dedicated to a high-quality clinical education experience for future rheumatology professionals. So far, Dr. Law has received funding through the award for one year, but she says it has already made an enormous difference in her study. Because of the Foundation’s support, she says she has been able to dedicate the time required to get the study off the ground.
“The space the Foundation’s award has given me to close my office door, focus on this, really follow ideas through and go for medical education training has transformed this project, as well as my career and the way I approach teaching and educational development,” she says.
The funding also enabled Dr. Law to attend professional development programs hosted by the Harvard Macy Institute, which provides educators in healthcare the opportunity to advance their career skills. She says attending those programs helped her to elevate the study: “It’s really allowed me to take this to the next level in terms of understanding what the next steps are to ensure this is a good educational experience, to make sure this is something that can be shared and used by other people outside of Emory and to make sure that we’re not just teaching, but people are actually learning from what we’re doing.”