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Interview with Dr. Thomas V Chacko: A Pioneer in Medical Education Research

NI Swathi

NI Swathi

2 min read

Interview with Dr. Thomas V Chacko: A Pioneer in Medical Education Research

A Deep Dive into the Evolution of Medical Education Research: An Engaging Conversation with Dr. Thomas V Chacko

Today, we have the privilege of sitting down with Dr. Thomas V Chacko, a distinguished figure in medical education research. Dr. Chacko, thank you for joining us. Let's begin by exploring what sparked your interest in medical education research and how your journey has unfolded over the past 40 years.

Q1: What inspired you to pursue a career in medical education research, and how has your journey evolved over the past 40 years?

A1: My journey began during my MD PSM course with community-based healthcare projects. A pivotal six-month internship at a rural PHC ignited my passion for preventive medicine and teaching. This led to prestigious Fellowships in Medical Education, including an International Fellowship from FAIMER at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2002, and a two-year International FAIMER Institute Fellowship in Philadelphia in 2004. These experiences laid the foundation for my research and academic leadership. As the Founding Director of the PSG-FAIMER Regional Institute, I mentored educators and spearheaded innovative research initiatives. I also served on the Executive Committee of SEARAME and as Secretary-General from 2011-17, shaping policies and teaching guidelines.

Q2: What are the key areas of focus in your medical education research?

A2: My research focuses on enhancing teaching quality and student learning outcomes. After my Fellowships, I revamped teaching practices and curriculum in my department. As the Professor in charge of medical education, I emphasized faculty capacity building and introduced innovative approaches like small-group learning and self-learning modules to improve student competencies.

Q3: How do you stay updated with the latest trends in medical education research?

A3: I stay updated through continuous learning, active research participation, and engagement with professional communities like SEARAME and FAIMER. Serving on editorial boards and as a peer reviewer for medical education journals also keeps me informed about emerging trends and best practices. I integrate these insights into my teaching and mentorship activities.

Q4: What significant changes have you witnessed in medical education throughout your career?

A4: I've seen a major shift towards student-centered, problem-based, and competency-driven curricula. In the seventies, the focus moved from hospital-based learning to preparing graduates for primary care. Harden's SPICES model and competency-based medical education (CBME) have significantly transformed training programs to align with the competencies required for medical practice.

Q5: What are the most pressing challenges in medical education today, and how can they be addressed?

A5: Key challenges include the rapid proliferation of new medical colleges leading to a shortage of trained faculty and declining education quality, as well as escalating costs of medical care and education. Solutions include transitioning to competency-based education, adopting comprehensive assessment frameworks, establishing Internal Quality Assurance Cells, and supporting faculty development and institutional improvements.

Q6: Can you share any memorable experiences or breakthroughs from your research career?

A6: My FAIMER Fellowship enabled me to analyze curricula and implement interventions recognized by WHO and other international bodies. Using Appreciative Inquiry in resource-constrained settings revealed effective capacity-building strategies. My advocacy efforts have influenced policy and guidelines to enhance medical education quality.

Q7: What advice would you give to early-career researchers in medical education?

A7: Start by addressing local issues with well-grounded interventions. Use logic models for systematic approaches, communicate findings effectively, and seek mentorship for guidance throughout the research process.

Q8: How do you balance research with teaching and clinical practice?

A8: Balancing involves leveraging routine activities to identify challenges and develop evidence-based solutions. Reflective practice enhances teaching and clinical care, improving student learning and patient outcomes.

Q9: Are there any emerging trends in medical education research you're excited about?

A9: Emerging trends include 21st-century learning needs, AI integration, optimized teaching methods, and fostering academic leadership. These areas promise to address evolving educational challenges and produce impactful outcomes.

Q10: What do you envision for the future of medical education, and what role will research play?

A10: The future of medical education hinges on research-driven innovations that produce competent healthcare professionals. Academic leaders must prioritize research and development, fostering faculty capacity in leadership and professional development. Research drives institutional excellence and continuous improvement in teaching practices.

Call to Action Quote: "Embrace innovation and evidence-based practices in medical education to ensure training programs evolve with the dynamic healthcare landscape."