Dean's dialogue with Prof. Chen Weiying—The Necessity of the Center for International Medical Education (CiME) of the International School of Medicine

Editor’s note:

The CiME is a research center that aims to stay current with developments in health professions education worldwide, drive changes, establish new standards, and facilitate policy-making to achieve excellence in medical education. Within this interview, Prof. Chen will share her thoughts about the necessity, the goals, and the challenges of the CiME.

Q1: Prof. Chen, could you explain to us what the CiME is, and what its key missions are?

A: The CiME is a research center in nature. It works as a health professions education scholarship unit (HPESU) within the International School of Medicine, Zhejiang University (ZJU-ISM). Through conducting and spreading research, it aims at enhancing education quality, providing the evidence base for reform, supporting the learning environment necessary for teachers and students, thus to achieve better learning outcomes in medical education. The key missions of the CiME consist of (a) faculty development, (b) educational policy conduction, (c) curriculum and pedagogy reform, and (d) internationalization of health professions education scholarship.

Chen is holding a research meeting for CiME

Q2: Prof. Chen, could you illustrate why the CiME is important for the ZJU-ISM?

A: As a newly established medical school, ZJU-ISM would like to keep up with the latest theories in health professions education scholarship from the outset and let research guide the development of our school. Learning from my experience staying at Stanford University in the U.S. and the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, I have found that almost all the world's top leading medical schools have an HPESU. Although the organization structure may vary by institution, they all have such an organization that focuses mainly on health professions education scholarship. It ensures the quality of their medical education, helps with forming an international academic community, and increases their international prestige.

After devoting myself to the establishment of ISM-ZJU, I have visited quite a number of medical schools in China. I observed that except for Peking University, an HPESU is rarely seen in other medical schools. Contrary to the desire for high-quality delivery, health professions education, the discipline that helps medical schools and academic teaching hospitals ensure evidence-based support and theoretical underpinnings, has been greatly neglected. We now face a great opportunity to cultivate the newborn ISM-ZJU. We hope to be on par with the world's leading medical schools at the beginning stage and provide a broader space for the future development of ISM-ZJU to achieve excellence in medical education.

Q3: Prof. Chen, in your point of view, what are the challenges for the CiME?

A: Launching the CiME is certainly not an easy task. Although the CiME has a bright future and will take a pivotal role at the ISM-ZJU, we are still facing many critical challenges. First of all, we do not have sufficient members of our team. In light of international experience, we need clinician educators, health professions education research scientists, and HPES administrative leaders for the CiME. Although we have team members such as Zhu Lin, Xu Xiaoming, and myself taking these roles, we do not reach a critical mass for team building. We need more experienced fellow members’ joint efforts in reaching our shared goals. Secondly, there is a lack of experience & resources in launching an HPESU. To overcome this limitation, we need to work closely with specialists from different fields. For instance, to offer English-language supports to our teachers and staff, we need help from linguistic professionals. Besides, to promote research in clinical reasoning, we need cooperation with clinical practitioners. Thirdly, consistent funding support is undoubtedly necessary in many terms such as constructing formal longitudinal development programs/ pipelines, facilitating international cooperation, and inviting specialists to share their ideas.

Despite the challenges, we are confident that our efforts will pay off in the long term. Education science is the science of solving upstream problems, it is a proactive approach to addressing problems before they arise. Described in allegorical terms, it is like a man could save one drowning child from the river, while he may see many other children coming down the drift calling for help. A devil keeps pushing children into the river upstream. We need health professions education to help us identify and address the potential problems before we fall into the maelstrom of exhausting us saving children downstream.

Chen is attending the 2023 BRIMEA Education Conference and communicating with Prof. Viktor Riklefs from Belarus

Written by Xu Xiaoming

Edited by Chen Weiying