Editorial Board Q&A: Bridget C. O’Brien, PhD

O'Brien Headshot 2015 copy

Bridget O’Brien, PhD, associate professor, Department of Medicine, and educational researcher, Center for Faculty Educators, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine

Describe your current activities.
I am very broadly interested in questions related to workplace learning. This is a huge topic, but one that gives me lots of flexibility in the topics I study and the methods I choose, which I like. Much of my current work focus is on interprofessional education and practice. I’ve examined learning opportunities in primary care huddles, during standardized patient activities, and through quality improvement projects.

I do have an article that should be coming out soon in Academic Medicine – “Systems-Oriented Workplace Learning Experiences for Early Learners: Three Models.” [Editor’s Note: This article is now available online.] We used a qualitative case study design to examine student’s experiences and contributions to systems improvement efforts in a variety of clinical settings. We hope the models will be helpful for educators who are designing similar types of experiences for early learners.

What gaps do you see in the current academic medicine scholarship?
There are a few areas in which I would like to see more research:

1. Organizational and policy studies. I haven’t seen a great deal of research at this level, but I see health care systems and universities as a key factor in education. I think there are many yet to be tapped opportunities to understand more about educational programs, innovations, policies, etc. through comparative analysis of educational institutions and systems.

2. Observational research. This type of research is resource-intensive and labor-intensive, but provides so much insight into educational processes. It really helps us understand how learning occurs–what kinds of interactions among learners, among learners and educators and patients, between learners/educator and technologies, etc.

3. I would love to see research that examines education and educational activities from a design perspective. For example, how does the design of physical space affect learning? How does the design of virtual spaces affect learning?

Name two to three seminal Academic Medicine articles that everyone in your field should read.
There are several terrific RIME Review papers that synthesize theories and conceptual frameworks relevant to core topics in medical education. These are terrific contributions to the literature and an excellent model for doctoral students who are writing reviews as part of their dissertation.

What issues will we be reading about in Academic Medicine in five years?
I hope we’ll be reading more evidence that education is improving our health care system (reducing errors, making health care more accessible, improving quality of care).

What book(s) are you reading right now?
Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World by Adam Grant–I was intrigued when I heard him describe the Myers–Briggs as a fun exercise with no predictive validity or practical utility. Beyond that, it’s a great read about successful (and unsuccessful) ideas.

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