Inspiring a Young Generation of Neurologists

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Former presidents of the AUPN shared perspective on the advances in neurology and how it was taught during their tenure.

The Association of University Professors of Neurology (AUPN) began back in 1968 as an organization of neurology department chairs to inform and curate neurological education, clinical practice and research, and to be a combined voice for neurology leaders to influence policy. That year, the organization had its first formal meeting, where Maynard Cohen was selected as president. Since its formalization, the AUPN has supported department chairs through its educational offerings that are geared toward the leaders in neurology departments including program directors and clerkship directors.

Over time, there have been dramatic changes in all aspects of neurologic care, and along with this, neurology education has transformed. These changes have affected all aspects of education across the educational continuum, including learners, teachers, educators, content, delivery methods, assessments, and outcomes. Several in the field believe that unification of educations across professions and specialties will allow for increased leverage of resources, meta-data, skillsets, and perspectives to develop a core foundation for all health professions so that students in different professions learn with and from each other.

To gain a greater understanding about the changes in neurology, how its taught, and the impact the AUPN has had in neurology departments, NeurologyLive® hosted a Roundtable Discussion featuring former AUPN presidents Robert Griggs, MD; Clifton Gooch, MD; and Henry Kaminski, MD. In this episode, the group of experts discussed the ongoing shortage of neurologists in the world, and ways in which educators can attract and keep young medical professionals in this subspecialty.

Marco Meglio: We discussed the prevailing shortage of neurologists, which is a concern in the US and globally. Can you elaborate on effective strategies for nurturing early education and career development among those considering a path in neurology? Could you share insights into supporting the younger generation?

Henry Kaminski, MD: Certainly, I believe it's crucial to start as early as possible. For instance, when we're addressing medical students, it's essential to create events that engage them. The Academy offers opportunities for involvement through specialized organizations. We should organize events that go beyond mere career sessions, including patient encounters for interested students. In our first-year program, we've established a form of medical apprenticeship that involves faculty and residents directly in teaching physical examination skills. This often serves as an inspiring experience for our students. When students express interest in research or outreach, it's vital to promptly facilitate their involvement. It's noteworthy that many students come with a background in neuroscience or psychology, displaying an initial passion for the brain, but this enthusiasm sometimes wanes over time, leading to career choices like dermatology. As chairs, our aim should be to guide students toward neurology.

Robert Griggs, MD: I'd like to emphasize four impactful steps to encourage students to pursue neurology. The first is establishing sign chapters or student interest groups in neurology, preferably even before their medical school journey starts. It's never too early to spark interest, and forming undergrad interest groups is feasible and effective. Additionally, focusing on diversity and inclusivity is key for a well-rounded workforce. Involving residents in high schools is a notable strategy, as young minds decide on their interests before college. This outreach can capitalize on their existing knowledge, often more advanced than we might expect. These initiatives collectively contribute to building a pool of potential neurologists.

Clifton Gooch, MD: I'm in agreement with the viewpoints shared earlier. I'd like to add that igniting the passion for neurology is paramount, and this process should ideally begin even before college or medical school. While it's challenging to implement comprehensive strategies, engaging national education leaders to emphasize science education, particularly neuroscience, is crucial. For medical students, assembling a dedicated team of educators is vital. This team, including the clerkship director, residents, and inspiring lecturers, can make a substantial impact. Passionate and skilled lecturers, especially during the foundational neuroscience courses in the initial years, can truly captivate students. This is often when the flame of interest is kindled, shaping their journey into neurology. Personal connections, like impactful clerkship experiences, also play a pivotal role.

In terms of financial considerations, the pay scale disparity among specialties in the US poses a challenge. While some sub-specialties within neurology fare better, the field as a whole faces fiscal realities. Reformation of the payment system is a larger concern that needs to be addressed over time. For now, our priority should be on inspiring students with the captivating aspects of neurology.

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