From blogs to board games, Dr. Teresa Chan takes knowledge-sharing to the next level
Dr. Teresa Chan is the recipient of the 2021 Royal College Award for Early-Career Leadership in Medical Education / Continuing Professional Development
Eight years into her career, Emergency Medicine physician Teresa Chan, MD, FRCPC, MHPE, DRCPSC, is already nationally known as a trailblazer in medical education. She readily embraces new tools and techniques — including less-traditional means like social media and gaming — to disseminate information on a broad scale.
An associate professor at McMaster University, Dr. Chan served as assistant dean in the Program for Faculty Development from September 2019 until recently when she became the associate dean of continuing professional development within the McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences.
For her innovation and impact in medical education, she is the 2021 recipient of the Royal College Award for Early-Career Leadership in Medical Education / Continuing Professional Development.
Dr. Chan is co-founder of the popular CanadiEM blog
Making the best information accessible to Emergency Medicine physicians when they need it has long been a challenge. Dr. Chan recognized the problem and, in 2016, became part of the solution as a founder of the CanadiEM blog, a virtual community of practice for Canadian Emergency Medicine practitioners. The platform embraces a wide array of novel educational techniques, from blog posts and podcasts to infographics and other tools.
“It was an idea that came out of wanting to harmonize and join forces with people,” she says. Talented medical writers were publishing new material on their own but also dealing with the headaches of maintaining their own websites.
Dr. Chan was part of a small group of like-minded physician-researchers with experience writing, editing or managing various blogs. “We wanted to develop new ways to economize on these volunteer efforts, and build a national platform for people to grow and educate together.”
A community of practice has developed around the CanadiEM blog. “We have a fair level of involvement around various levels,” says Dr. Chan. “Sometimes residents are teaching medical students how to do things on the site. We’re all supporting each other.”
“It’s a common cause of free and open access medical education,” she says. “And it’s been really fun to watch it grow.” CanadiEM now has over 100 editors, more than 115,000 page-views per month and has been accessed by more than 1.7 million individuals since its launch.
Education through “serious gaming”
Dr. Chan has also pursued “serious gaming” as a tool for medical education.
Dr. Chan realized that every day spent in the ER strains the health system, with caseloads that were difficult for the team to handle. She wondered, “How do we take care of multiple patients and juggle back and forth?” She did her master’s thesis on that question and published several papers on the topic. Then she decided to take her ideas to the next level in collaboration with a colleague who, like her, was a board game enthusiast.
“We made a board game to teach how to optimize flow in the Emergency Department (ED),” she says.
Dr. Chan describes the game — called GridlockED — as table-top exercises ED teams can do for everyday preparedness. They’ve since sold more than 500 copies of the game and published several papers on it.
Finding efficiencies in mentorship
Both the blog and the board game reflect Dr. Chan’s commitment to sharing knowledge and mentorship.
“She has spent countless hours directly mentoring over 70 trainees, empowering learners to turn their ideas into successful academic projects,” according to the editorial team at CanadiEM. “She is always just an email or text message away, seems to consistently possess a knack for knowing the exact right advice to give, and can always summon outside-the-box insight.”
“Mentorship is so critically important that it’s just part of what you do,” Dr. Chan says, adding that she “eats, breathes and sleeps mentorship.”
But with such a demanding schedule, Dr. Chan also says she must be efficient about mentorship. Sometimes that means having people together in a group where they mentor each other. She also joins with medical education colleagues in a weekly lab group where trainees can ask them any questions.
Journal editor role an extension of Dr. Chan’s mentorship
In addition to being a prolific writer of articles, Dr. Chan serves on the editorial teams of several journals, including the top medical education journal, Academic Medicine.
“I think that journals are a natural extension of mentorship,” she says. As a reviewer, she tries to help writers “find the pearl within their paper,” making suggestions on how they can improve their article and “get it across the finish line.”
Dr. Chan says she was “flattered and honoured” to receive the Royal College’s early career award but also very surprised that the nomination was successfully kept secret from her.
“It’s the first time someone has done a full sneak attack on me,” she says. “That’s the kind of ninja nomination that I aspire to do for others!”