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Kelly Karpa on Being a Macy Faculty Scholar

New York, NY

Kelly Karpa, PhD, RPh, of Penn State College of Medicine is part of Macy’s 2013 Scholar Class. As a Macy Faculty Scholar, Karpa developed an education project that brought medical, nurse practitioner, and pharmacy students together to think more critically about medications. We sat down with Dr. Karpa to hear about her time as a Macy Faculty Scholar.

How did being a Macy Faculty Scholar impact your career?
I am certain that being a Macy Faculty Scholar was instrumental in my earning tenure at Penn State and being appointed as a Co-Director of the Office for Interprofessional Collaborative Education and Teamwork at the College of Medicine. My academic focus on redesigning education may not be something that all institutions would consider when weighing tenure. But being a Macy Scholar, no doubt, had a huge impact.

After being selected for the Macy program, my peers at other institutions and fellow faculty members wanted to collaborate or brainstorm together more often. I was able to work jointly with nursing, pharmacy and dietitian students and colleagues both within Penn State and from outside academic institutions. As a Macy Scholar I was able to take on new leadership roles, work across disciplines, and serve as a bridge for educators across colleges and professions.

What do you know now as an educator that you didn’t before?
As a Macy Scholar I had the privilege of being able to attend a Harvard Macy Institute course for Leading Innovations in Healthcare and Education. It exposed me to issues that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to consider, like the business principles of disruptive innovation and how that impacts education. We also discussed what different generations of patients perceive and expect from the health care system. We need to take patient’s wants and needs into account as we redesign both the healthcare system and health professions education. 

What’s next for the project?
Most of the activities developed through my Macy project have been incorporated into medical school coursework at Penn State, which is very exciting. We are currently analyzing the data from the project and will use what we learn to continue to shape the curriculum. For example, one of our initial findings was that when medical students took the course with students from other professions, they reported enjoying it more and even performed certain clinical tasks better, like taking a patient’s history, compared to students that took the curriculum only with other medical students. We believe this suggests that when learning about clinical pharmacology topics with students from other disciplines, medical students have a new perspective on patient care and view patients through a different type of lens.

We are continuing to use much of the curriculum with medical students, and in the coming years I want to bring more professions along.

What advice do you have for other educational innovators?
A former colleague of mine used to quote Louis Pasteur: “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” Sudden flashes of insight don’t just happen; they happen only when you have already prepared.  My advice for anyone looking to develop a new curriculum is to identify what you want to achieve and prepare for it, even if a door isn’t open for you yet. Get prepared, get your ducks in a row, and go for it!

Learn more about Dr. Karpa’s work at Penn State. 

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