COMSEP and Aquifer: Collaborating for Excellence in Clinical Education


Melissa Held, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases and Associate Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Curriculum Lead, Aquifer Pediatrics. 

Kirstin Nackers, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Undergraduate Medical Education at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Senior Director and Editor-in-chief of Aquifer’s Pediatrics Board.

This episode discusses the longstanding and synergistic relationship between Aquifer and COMSEP. Educators from both groups have worked continuously to integrate their resources and ensure Aquifer Pediatrics comprehensively covers the COMSEP curriculum as it evolves. We’ll share details of COMSEP’s recent curriculum mapping project as an example of COMSEP and Aquifer’s processes to create trustworthy curricula and teaching resources.

Additional Resources:

MS3 Curriculum Action Toolkit

Link to 2005 Article on CLIPP Development

Full Show Notes

Remediation & Targeted Skills Development with Aquifer

Guest: Jaime Bowman MD, Clinical Education Director of Family Medicine, Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

Dr. Jaime Bowman shares how she supports students in need of remediation or targeted skills development through an individualized approach. She finds that Aquifer cases provide an ideal low-stakes environment for allowing learners to practice skills, try new things, and build confidence in an accessible and safe space. Dr. Bowman applies her framework to help students who need to catch up, advance their skills, return from family or personal leave, or take an alternative pathway through their education. The breadth of cases available in Aquifer’s Content Library provide a rich opportunity for customizing learning plans and assignments to meet learners where they are and addressing specific gaps in knowledge or skills, customizing assignments by clinical location, patient age, condition, or clinical focus.

Full show notes can be found here.

Harnessing Group Learning to Develop Clinical Reasoning Skills

Guest: Dolapo Babalola MD, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Director, Family Medicine and Rural Health Clerkship, and Director, Family Medicine Undergraduate Medical Education at Morehouse School of Medicine.

In this episode, Dr. Dolapo Babalola shares her tips about how to run interactive group sessions that promote engagement with Aquifer cases and enhance students’ clinical reasoning skills. Before creating her model of facilitated case-based sessions, which incorporates role play and group learning, Dr. Babalola got complaints from students that Aquifer cases were just busy work. Now students in her family medicine clerkship report finding value in learning how to solve clinical problems collaboratively with peers. Clerkship directors have also commented on the high level of skill that students who have completed the family medicine clerkship bring to subsequent clinical experiences.

Full show notes can be found here.

Supporting Residents as Teachers and Learners with Aquifer Cases

Guest: Michael Dell, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Vice Chair for Education at Case Western Reserve University SOM and a pediatrician at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. Aquifer Pediatrics – Senior Director & Case Author.

Dr. Dell is an enthusiastic proponent of using virtual cases across the continuum of medical education, including with advanced learners like residents and interns. In this episode, Dr. Dell describes how he incorporates cases into his Residents as Teachers Curriculum, replacing lectures with noon conferences. In their flipped classroom model, residents run the conference like rounds leading a discussion about an Aquifer case framed as the ‘virtual patient you admitted the night before’ and incorporating rich what- if and compare and contrast scenarios. Dr. Dell also shares a successful collaboration with residents to create a case-based orientation curriculum for acting interns that eased their transition to the hospital setting. The curriculum included instruction about essential content as well as practical tips on how to get things done in the hospital.

Full show notes can be found here.

Facilitated Discussions and Role Playing Using Standardized Cases

Guest: Kirstin Nackers, MD, Assistant Professor and Director of Pediatric Undergraduate Medical Education at University of Wisconsin-Madison

In this episode, Dr. Kirstin Nackers shares two examples of case-based instruction she uses to increase student engagement and promote learning in an integrated core clerkship combining Pediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynecology and Geriatrics. She describes the first example as a “COVID-induced improvement”, recalling that when COVID restrictions prevented students from learning about diagnosis and treatment of patients with fever in actual clinical contexts, she turned to Aquifer’s fever case to teach this core content. The lesson she learned was that using a single case enabled her to improve teaching sessions by developing a standardized discussion guide that faculty facilitators could use to focus interactive discussion and better ensure achievement of session learning objectives. The second way she uses cases is to develop role plays for a session designed to teach students about abuse, neglect, and mandated reporting. The goal of the session is not only to increase students’ knowledge about mandated reporting requirements – but to increase students’ comfort talking about those tough topics with patients. She has found that an engaging way to master communication skills is through practice with role play followed by structured debriefing.

Full show notes can be found here.