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Journal publishes analysis of KU Medical Alumni Association’s fund for teaching excellence

March 11, 2020

By Anne Christiansen-Bullers

Patient examined with stethoscope by medical student

How do medical-school professors conduct educational research to improve classroom performance? How do they incorporate the latest simulation technology or reimagine curriculum for 21st-century medicine?

If they're at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, they can apply for a grant from the Medical Alumni Innovative Teaching Fund (MAITF). A history and analysis of the program was recently published in the academic journal "Medical Science Educator: The Journal of the International Association of Medical Science Educators."

What is MAITF?

The Medical Alumni Innovative Teaching Fund (MAITF) provides grants to KU School of Medicine professors who need money to pursue a specific project that might be difficult or impossible to fund through other avenues.

In the 10-year history of MAITF, the program has dispersed $1 million to fund 69 different projects, all with the goal of medical education research.
"The idea is to provide monetary support for projects or great ideas requiring a small amount of funding," said Giulia A. Bonaminio, Ph.D., senior associate dean for medical education for the KU School of Medicine.

Bonaminio co-authored the "Medical Science Educator" article with five KU School of Medicine colleagues (see list below) and investigated the prevalence of funding for medical education.

"Our research showed that nationally, 70 percent of medical education research projects went unfunded, and the 30 percent that did receive funding were often underfunded," she said.

Where did MAITF funds come from?

Funding for these research projects came from the University of Kansas Medical Alumni Association. Back in 1961, the alumni association requested $100 a year for four years from around 3,000 graduates to create a Distinguished Medical Teaching Fund.

More money was added throughout the years, and the fund reached $1 million around 1980. Interest from the account is used to fund MAITF grants.

Jordann Snow, director of alumni relations at the University of Kansas Medical Center, said MAITF is an example of how alumni can influence the quality of education years after they've left their alma mater.

"It's incredible to think of the forethought of these Jayhawks, from the 1960s all the way up to today, and the power they had to shape medical education," Snow said.

How much grant money is available?

For the 2019-2020 academic year, $125,000 was available for grants, with a maximum grant of $25,000 per project. That's a five-fold increase from the $5,000 maximum when MAITF started in 2010.

What projects are funded through MAITF?

MAITF-funded projects have covered many topics important to professors, including:

  • Using simulation (both with humans and manikins) for experiential learning
  • Integrating the latest teaching technology
  • Developing individualized coaching techniques
  • Introducing learning communities
  • Revising curriculum to create "flipped" classrooms, where lectures are online and class time is collaborative

Why was the article for "Medical Science Educator" written?

Bonaminio said the article's authors wanted to share the success of the alumni association-university partnership so other universities might benefit from the innovation.

"We've discovered that the partnership incentivizes research, encourages collaboration amongst professors and builds educational scholarship," she said. "These grants are especially helpful for professors making the transition from clinician to medical educator."

Snow said the KU Medical Alumni Association is proud to be able to help shape the professional development of professors, and the scholarly article shines a light on MAITF's impact.

"It's an exceptional partnership of alumni and institution," Snow said. "A relatively small sum of money can have a big difference on the quality of medical education."

Who authored the "Medical Science Educator" scholarly article?

Along with Bonaminio, authors from the KU School of Medicine included:

  • Anne Walling, MB, CHB, associate dean for faculty development, Wichita campus
  • Teresa D. Beacham, MBA, program manager for Academy of Medical Educators
  • William Rory Murphy, M.D., chair of Distinguished Medical Teaching Fund trustees
  • Kimberly M. Huyett, senior director of Community Relations and Strategic Partnerships
  • Robert D. Simari, M.D., executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center
Last modified: Mar 10, 2020
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