When Dr. Thad Miller introduced a different kind of course project to his Health Insurance and Managed Care class, he knew it would be interesting, but he had no idea that it would result in one of the university’s largest and most collaborative Grand Rounds in many years.
How did a unique teaching experiment go so far and have such an impact?
“I know that when I’m personally learning new information or a new subject, it really comes alive for me if I have a chance to use the concepts in practice,” Dr. Miller said. “I wanted to give the class that kind of hands-on opportunity, to dig deeper into a very complex topic that would take them beyond the more traditional path of lectures and exams, so they could learn by doing.”
Dr. Miller challenged the class to engage across the UNTHSC campus, community and health care industry to plan and produce a Grand Rounds continuing education presentation for students, faculty, health professionals and others in the fields of medicine and public health.
In addition to a standing-room-only crowd on campus, an online audience from eight states tuned in to the webcast for Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit, viewing from Texas, California, Arizona, Utah, Alabama, Michigan, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Dr. Miller first connected the class with Leslie Herman, MLS, MBA, CHCP, Program Manager for INCEDO UNT Health Science Center, a nationally-accredited provider for continuing education activities and programs both live and online. The idea proposed was to explore the challenges of today’s health care environment with a panel of insurance and provider experts.
INCEDO liked the proposal for its educational value and because it fit accreditation guidelines for including students in the planning process.
“It was a valuable experience for the class to work with panelists from diverse health care business settings to examine how the payer/provider/regulatory sectors connect, and to gain a firsthand look ‘behind the curtain’ to see what goes into planning a continuing education activity where specific goals and desired outcomes align to inform a targeted audience,” Herman said. “This was the first time in my three years with UNTHSC that I’ve worked with students developing a Grand Rounds as part of a class project.”
Herman met regularly with the students, and Dr. Miller provided guidance along the way, connecting the class with leads on speakers and others within the university who could help.
“The Office of Brand Communication advised on messaging to present the story of ‘Insurance in a Dynamic Marketplace,’ and UNTHSC media spokesperson Jeff Carlton coached our moderators on effective panel interview techniques,” Dr. Miller said.
The School of Public Health agreed to underwrite costs for event, which was provided free to participants.
“The funding commitment from the Dean demonstrated confidence in what our students are doing. This is consistent with the mission of connecting our students with the community and the professional world,” Dr. Miller said.
The class broke into teams to start, electing an executive committee and sub-groups who would reach out to speakers, coordinate with INCEDO, develop questions for the panelists in line with CME guidelines, and plan hospitality and after-event follow up.
Dr. Miller’s active role minimized once the class took the lead. He advised the teams to avoid saying they were working on a class project, so they could take a higher-level approach in their conversations with speakers and others involved.
UNT Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Eric H. Beck, D.O., M.P.H., was recruited as a panelist, along with Paul Hain, MD, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, North Texas Market President, and William (Doug) Wallace, JD, Fraud Prosecutor with the Texas Department of Insurance, Fort Worth.
Student Laci Sherman (MHA candidate, class of ’18), who coordinated with Blue Cross Blue Shield as one of the class team leads, said the experience “brought the whole topic to light,” taking it a step beyond what’s presented in class.
“It gave us a great opportunity to network with professionals in the industry, learn more about the future of health care, and gain valuable project management and organizational skills that will help in our careers,” she said.
Dr. Miller said a big benefit to this teaching tool has been the new relationships formed with industry leaders, as well as increased awareness of what UNTHSC students can do.
Dr. Beck agreed, calling the event “a wonderful proof point for the value of One University and how UNTHSC is uniquely positioned as the producer of contemporary practitioners for the health care delivery system of the future – one focused on improving health for populations and communities.”