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Why I Teach - Frances Biagioli, MD

Nine members of the School of Medicine faculty were recently recognized by their peers for excellence in teaching. This Q&A series profiles each of the recipients and asks the question, “Why do you teach?”

Dr. BiagioliFebruary’s Q&A features Frances Biagioli, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, who was nominated by William L. Toffler, MD, Professor, Department of Family Medicine.

Dr. Biagioli (bee-uh-joe-lee) received her medical degree from the Medical College of Ohio. She completed her residency here in the Department of Family Medicine, and was board certified in family practice in 1998. She practiced in Portland for two years before joining OHSU in 2000. Her clinical practice is at the Gabriel Park Family Health Center, an OHSU satellite clinic, where she served as medical director for two years. She was appointed medical director of the OHSU Physician Assistant Program in May 2004. She now also serves as the Director for the Principles of Clinical Medicine Preceptorship and the Associate Director of the Family Medicine of Medical Student Education.

Q&A With Frances Biagioli, MD

What got you into teaching?
I was initially in private practice, where I taught a student part-time in the clinic, and just loved it! After a while I figured out that what I liked most was when the student was around. The student reminded me that this was something I really enjoyed doing.

What opportunities are there in your field?
Because the academic world is really broad and not field specific, there are limitless opportunities. There is a need for teachers in every field, whether that be in clinical or academic education. If you are someone who loves to teach and does it well, you will be in demand.

What are the top challenges for educators today at OHSU?
One of the top challenges is trying to balance your academic role with your clinical and research roles, while trying to maintain a priority for teaching. Your personal drive and passion can help you overcome or address these challenges and remind you why you teach. If you love teaching and allow your passions to lead you, you will always have the opportunity to teach, regardless of what the other challenges are.

What do you see as the future direction in education?
Person-to-person education will always be a necessary part of teaching. In some instances, however, personal contact might best be augmented with other applications, technologies and modalities. For example, a didactic lecture is not always the best way to learn. I feel like a lot of educational activities, like reading a textbook, will need to be augmented with online endeavors in order to bring out the best use of time for both the student and the teacher. Teaching the faculty to embrace technology, like how to make a narrated PowerPoint or produce a webinar, will help how, when and where we teach. It will also allow us to expand our class size. If you’re not limited by the physical size of the building, you wouldn’t necessarily be limited by where the person is. This means you might be able to get more rural students. It also might open the door for parents wanting to become teachers who could make best use of their time by taking online classes in combination with attending classes on campus.

What have you learned from your students?
I’m constantly learning from my students. They are the best way to teach you what is on the cutting edge. I’m there to teach them how to sort that information and how to apply that information based on a patient’s individual preferences. Often students inform me of new ideas from what they have read in the textbook, which in turn makes me educate myself on the topic.

Can you provide an anecdote from the past that demonstrates “why you like to teach?”
I have a picture on my wall of one of my students who I had in clinic for two years. She went into gynecology and was a chief resident and I was able to hear from students who worked with her. So it’s this passing on of the torch that is rewarding.

Did you have an influential teacher after whom you have modeled your own teaching?
A lot of people comment that they like my style, but what I did was take little bits and pieces of how people taught. Someone like Dr. Fields* pushed you to make your own diagnosis. Dr. Goodwin* would question how you interacted with people and remind you to teach them as a person. And Dr. Walsh* would take me in and show me how to do a physical exam. So it’s more of an amalgam of a bunch of teachers. You also learn from the teachers you didn’t like, for example, on what I would choose not to offer or how I might react to someone.

Are good teachers born, or are they made?
I think it’s more about personality. Not everyone can be a teacher because you have to be able to think on different levels and explain from different points of view. I think there are a lot of people out there who interact well with people and would make good teachers, they just need to have help honing their skills and expounding on what they do well. You can teach a teacher.

How do you continue to learn so that you can continue to teach?
Having the openness to realize and admit that I don’t know everything is important. This allows me to be open to learning from my learners. It’s also important to be aware of what I do know.

What advice do you have for people who want to teach?
Keep your passions at the center. If teaching is what you love to do, then you should do it all the time, even when you’re not in the classroom or lab. For example, how do you teach when you are in the midst of a busy day seeing patients? Well, you can teach patients, and staff, and family as well as students. When I’m with a patient I’m teaching them about their body and how to take their medicines. And when I’m interacting with the staff I’m teaching them what might be a better system for getting things done. If you love to teach, you should take advantage of every opportunity to teach.

* Peter Goodwin, MB, ChB, Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Family Medicine; Eric Walsh, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine; Scott Fields, MD, Professor, Department of Family Medicine

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