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Week 2: The Big Picture

Week 2: The Big Picture
September 16, 2013 - September 20, 2013

It’s been two weeks now at AACP, and I’ve started to really focus on what projects I’m going to complete. When I first applied for this APPE, my interests were in curriculum development and assessment. In the short six weeks that I have been here, it’s hard to learn everything, so I’ve decided to really focus more on learning about assessment mainly because it’s more interesting to me. I’ve started to set realistic goals for my major projects, of which I decided to tackle three instead of one.   

One of my projects has to do with AACP’s Academic Leadership Fellows Program (ALFP), a program designed to develop stronger leadership skills and understand personal potential. In essence, the research question looks at what the return on investment (ROI) is for deans who send their faculty.  Allowing a faculty member to participate will cost a dean about $7000 for tuition and an additional $6000-7000 for travel, lodging, meals, and other costs for attending the quarterly meetings.  It is a significant investment for a dean to allow a faculty member to participate. The project has a lot of moving parts and is one that I don’t necessarily expect to finish, but I do want to get the ball rolling.  A full review of the program’s value to the deans hasn’t really been done, so it’s a big project that is well timed for its 10th anniversary.

My other two projects are looking at the AACP Walmart Scholars program and the centralized criminal background check program that is incorporated into PharmCAS. I’m focusing more on the AACP Walmart Scholars program, mostly because I’ve already invested a lot of time into it and because I’m more confident in being able to complete a more meaningful project with the few short weeks that I have left. I initially looked at these projects as busy work – work that contributed very little in the way of progress but required extensive effort, but I now see that these programs really are targeted towards the large issues of academic faculty recruitment and surrogate markers of student success, ethics, and professionalism among other things.

Compared to last week, this week’s work pace has slowed down quite a bit because my projects are now taking more time to complete. Just as last week, I continued to meet the senior staff to learn more about them and get more advice on how to complete my projects. I also got to listen in on another webinar about the PCAT that was about the proposed changes to the blueprint of the test and how this standardized test compared to others in other medical professionals, like the MCAT.  The last major thing that I did this week was attend a webinar about technology in the classroom and how educational change is needed to bring what has happened in the 21st century to the everyday learning environment.

Slowing down this week has really allowed me to see the big picture to all the smaller things that AACP does, as well as the relatively small projects I’m doing; perspective and focus are needed to really spend time wisely on goal-directed activities. Most of my time spent on my projects has been compiling data and reorganizing it to make more sense of it. Without proper direction, the data doesn’t really mean anything, and it is difficult to form inferences and associations that the data may point to; therefore, my focus has really been honing in on applicable topics of my projects, where the data apply, and what the goals of my research will me.

Looking back at other experiences where I’ve had this same problem of information and work overload, this has always been my approach. I take on a lot of work, I focus on what’s important, and then I make goals to map and check myself. It’s very much like an internal Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) quality improvement cycle that helps to redirect my work. If I were to be more conscious of this, I may be able to contribute to working more efficiently than I did before.

Moving onward, it will be important for me to look at the big picture when taking on tasks. Though it may not make me work faster or arrive at any conclusions about the task at hand, it will allow me to stay focused on what I’m trying to accomplish in the long run. Perhaps not taking on the huge load to begin with can allow me to step back more and appreciate the meaningfulness of my work and what greater purpose I’m contributing to.

Justin Bioc
Northeastern University
Pharmacy Student | Class of 2014

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