Playing games and exploring your Interests as keys to success with Meghan Jeffres!
Meghan Jeffres graduated pharmacy school from University of Wyoming, PGY1 at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City Utah, PGY2 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis Missouri, Assistant to Associate professor at Roseman University College of Pharmacy in Las Vegas Nevada, then back to Assistant at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy. She loves creating, doesn’t mind assessing, hates writing about it.
L: Hi! My name is Lauren. Welcome to Take Two Pills and listen to this podcast. I am so excited to have Dr. Meghan Jeffres. Meghan graduated pharmacy school from University of Wyoming, did her PGY1 at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City Utah, completed a PGY2 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis Missouri. She went from Assistant to Associate professor at Roseman University College of Pharmacy in Las Vegas Nevada, then back to Assistant at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy. She loves creating, doesn’t mind assessing, and hates writing about it. I just have to say after knowing Meghan and working with her, I disagree with that last sentence. She is fantastic at all three of those.
M: Quality of output does not necessarily mean enjoying the process. But thank you.
L: My first question is a classic interview question: “Tell me about yourself and your teaching style.”
M: I came in to Academia through the side door. The first classroom I was in was at Roseman, which is a 3 year accelerated program with a block schedule. Students are in class from 8 to 3 and you are responsible for that day. You have six hours to teach and spend that time with them. You are forced to schedule time in your lectures to do things. The time management is an interesting process to learn. Roseman really focused on Mastery of learning and it was a 90% pass-fail curriculum. On average, your curriculum should be ⅓ to 1/2 Active Learning. Since then, I have become an advocate for active learning. Now, I'm really looking at the scholarship of active learning.
L: What is an effective strategy that you have implemented and then one that was not as great?
M: One thing that I thought would be mundane was going through worksheets. In the classroom, as infectious disease teachers, there is no standard textbook. We are often creating our own content. I give them that basic information ahead of time in a flipped classroom kind of way. Then, in class, we go through a skeleton of a workbook. I thought students might find it boring, but they are so into it. They think it's really effective. Handouts, worksheets, workbooks, or something I do all the time.
L: I like it because it is low-tech. We all love the bells and whistles, video games, apps, etc. It’s a kind of guided reading. Hopefully they have done the baseline reading and prep, so this is a form of application of the information.
M: Surprising part is that it is effective and yet rudimentary. It's not graded and all of it is focused on their learning and their benefit.
What has not been effective was taking ID fundamentals and skipping a couple of steps. That led to asking them to apply things that they were maybe not ready for. That can be very frustrating for even your highest achieving students. It will cause them to check out. There has to be gradual steps from memorization to application in the real world. There can be assuming that they can make connection or links that haven't been assessed yet in the classroom.
L: What is Insight that you wish you knew on your first day?
M: I was lucky that my first day in the classroom was only a half day, only 3 hours. I was very knowledgeable about the topic and had done some research in the area. I think knowing a lot about the content of your first lecture might be a hindrance, because you have not gone to the learning process yourself in a long time. A student raised his hand and said that they had learned last week that Gentamicin did not have pseudomonas coverage. I didn't really have an answer to that. The big lesson there is that you have to know what was taught before your lecture. You have to review the prior curriculum to build on the information with your content. It was a big wake-up call to me that I needed to review every slide, objective, and outcome of each person who had taught before me.
L: Do you have any books, podcast, or resources that you would recommend to a new faculty member?
M: For someone who is new to teaching, I think the best thing is to sit in the classroom. It does not have to be your content area. You should go listen to both clinical and science folks. It takes time, but your first year as faculty is when you probably have the most flexibility to do it. If there is another pharmacy school nearby, broaden your horizons and go there to listen. There are two things to look for. One is what is the teacher doing and two how are the students responding.
L: Where do you get your inspiration for these ideas?
M: My mother calls it navel-gazing. It's a lot of reflection and thinking of solutions to things that did not go well. I also learn from other people's inspiration. The whole inspiration behind gamification was when one of my pharmacy colleagues was trying to brainstorm pharmacy poker. We had to come up with the content, rules, and procedures of the game. We made a big chart to identify which pairs of antibiotic and organism would represent each card. We also had to decide how we would score cards that included a drug that was not necessarily the drug of choice. What I learned is that it took the fun right out of it. It became so complicated. So, I had to try to decide which format would work since I was invested in the idea. We then came up with ID Gin Rummy. From there, I figured out how to explore all of the gamification ideas. I'm happy to build on someone else's genius nugget.
L: What is so great You have the follow-through to see ideas all the way through. The design process suck the fun out of it when you were trying to come up with logistics and answer key is. What you do really well is seeing things all the way through.
M: Sometimes it's hard to take something that you created and put it out into the world, even to your own classroom. It will be critiqued and picked apart. There's a concern that they will hate this thing that you developed or put time into. Is it going to be embarrassingly terrible? You have to be risk tolerant. It also comes with practice. You also get much better at planning. You do not want to wing it or just have it be a free-for-all. Things go sideways quickly. It comes from repeated efforts of trying new things. You will just get better at trying new things. That in itself is a skill.
L: What is your overall prescription for success and happiness in this job and in general?
M: When I was first introduced to strength finders, I thought that was such a great concept. Stop trying to fix what you're bad at and go ahead and spend time in what you're good at. That felt like a permission slip for me. One of the things about academia that is both a blessing and a curse is all of the independence. You can forge your own path. If you have a path, that's great. If you don't have a path, you meander. I should have spent more time thinking about what I would like to continue to pursue next.
Do a good job investigating what you like. What would make you want to come back and look at the same idea or concept in a different way and continue to build on it? Once you find your niche, it can actually be in massive. Since research and scholarship is a big part of our job, what do you want to spend the next 10 years exploring? Success looks different for everyone. Success has to be self-driven. I've never had a faculty member say that they were assigned a specific research area. You may be assigned lectures, course coordinator roles, committees, or practice sites, but what you do within those is largely up to you. Take the time to see what will be most exciting and fruitful to you for the next 10 years.
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