Laura Garabedian: Leading Essential Teaching Programs that Develop Skills for Evidence-based Decision Making
Beginning with her time as a teaching fellow in her PhD program, Dr. Laura Garabedian knew that her goal would be to forge a career that blended research and teaching. Landing at DPM, a department whose bedrock is education (learn more about our history here), she soon realized the path to that goal began with an “essential”; that is, Essentials of the Profession, a core course in the Harvard Medical School curriculum that covers four disciplines: health policy, medical ethics, social medicine, and clinical epidemiology and population health. Throughout her seven years at DPM, she has increasingly grown her teaching responsibilities beyond Essentials.
In Fall 2018, Dr. Garabedian assumed the role of Director of Teaching Programs at DPM. She provides leadership and oversight of the HMS longitudinal Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health Curriculum, co-directs the Fellowship in Health Policy and Insurance Research with Associate Professor Anita Wagner, teaches in Harvard’s PhD Program in Health Policy, and serves as our liaison to the HMS Scholars in Medicine Program. She also facilitates teaching opportunities for faculty with wide-ranging disciplines, schedules, and teaching goals.
As DPM’s teaching liaison to Harvard Medical School, she quickly made a name for herself there, and found a foothold in a new position: Co-Director of Essentials of the Profession. Beginning in 2019, Dr. Garabedian now leads a team of eight discipline-specific co-directors, oversees curriculum development and integration, and works closely with HMS Curriculum Services to manage the administration of the course. She also sits on the HMS Pathways Preclerkship Subcommittee, which focuses on educational policy and curriculum development for preclerkship students.
We talked to Dr. Garabedian to learn more about her own pathway to teaching at DPM and Harvard, her hopes for the future of the teaching programs, and how the challenges of COVID-19 may have changed the face of medical education going forward.
Q: We know there is a minimum teaching requirement of all DPM faculty, but you’ve taken the requirement to a new level. What motivated you to pursue increasingly growing responsibilities in the area of teaching?
A: I loved teaching during my PhD program and always envisioned a career with a balance of teaching and research. I feel very fortunate to have found this balance at DPM, which is largely due to the fortune of being at the right place in the right time. I grew into my teaching role as DPM Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health (CEPH) faculty leaders moved onto different roles and HMS made changes to the curriculum that required the development of new courses. I am energized by teaching and find my interactions with students to be deeply rewarding, both in a classroom setting and one-on-one. I also enjoy my roles in academic administration, which give me the opportunity to think strategically about curriculum and pedagogical approaches and interact with hundreds of Harvard faculty outside of DPM.
I am energized by teaching and find my interactions with students to be deeply rewarding, both in a classroom setting and one-on-one.
- Laura Garabedian, PhD, MPH
Q: What are some of your plans for the future in this role?
A: I strive to increase the opportunities for DPM faculty to interact with students at HMS and throughout Harvard. First, I hope to get more DPM faculty involved in teaching at HMS in our CEPH curriculum (in Essentials 1, Essentials 2, and Transition to the Principle Clinical Experience) or in one of the elective Advanced Integrated Science Courses (AISCs). There are also opportunities to develop a new AISC. Second, I hope to increase student involvement in DPM faculty members’ research. I plan to use my teaching affiliations at both HMS and the University to connect medical and doctoral students with research projects and DPM faculty mentors. There is a huge opportunity for DPM faculty members to mentor HMS students on their required Scholars in Medicine projects. Finally, I would like to explore opportunities for DPM to establish virtual courses in our areas of expertise to train researchers, clinicians and health system leaders throughout the world.
Q: How would you describe the department’s role in the education of medical students?
A: If I had to summarize the department’s role in teaching throughout the University and at HMS’s clinical sites in one phrase, I would say that our teaching activities “develop skills for evidence-based decision making.” DPM’s CEPH curriculum teaches medical students how to critically evaluate evidence and use it appropriately in clinical decisions and population health management. This is obviously a critical skillset for future physicians and health system leaders. The longitudinal nature of the CEPH curriculum allows us to expose students to key concepts of clinical epidemiology early in their medical education. Then, after at least a year in clinical rotations, students return to the classroom with a greater appreciation of clinical epidemiology and an eagerness to learn about advanced methods and important population health topics. Our clinical faculty members continuously demonstrate and encourage evidence-based clinical decision making for their students, residents and fellows. DPM faculty are also heavily involved in teaching epidemiology and statistics courses for masters and doctoral students and clinicians at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.
I would like to explore opportunities for DPM to establish virtual courses in our areas of expertise to train researchers, clinicians and health system leaders throughout the world.
- Laura Garabedian, PhD, MPH
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: First of all, I want to acknowledge and thank all of the DPM faculty who teach in courses at HMS and throughout the University (check out the 2019 Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute Annual Report for a sample of our teaching activities). And, I want to thank DPM leadership for making teaching a strategic priority for the department.
I’d also like to mention the COVID-19 pandemic, which has presented interesting educational challenges and opportunities. Epidemiology and population health are now at the forefront of national discourse – I think students are more interested in these disciplines than ever before and we have been able to incorporate COVID-19 into our curriculum. The switch to remote learning, which will be followed by a hybrid of remote and in-person classes for the foreseeable future, has been challenging. But, it is making educators think creatively about ways to virtually engage students and I think it will have lasting impacts on how courses are taught after the pandemic.
As the department’s teaching portfolio grows, so does its focus on training health practitioners and health system leaders. The future of education coming from DPM is strong, as evidenced by DPM’s increased footprint across the Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health campuses. Congratulations to Dr. Garabedian for her role in continuing a strong tradition of teaching activities, influencing curriculum, and educational leadership.
Visit the DPM website to keep up with teaching programs updates.