Enhancing the Learning Environment at Duke’s Department of Medicine

Dr. Jane Gagliardi, who has served as the associate dean for Learning Environment and Well-being since July 2023, is dedicated to improving equitable access to health services, learning support, and community building for all students at Duke University School of Medicine (SOM). A Civility Champion since initial training in 2018, she serves as the Department of Medicine Civility Champion lead debrief facilitator and has played a pivotal role in making the culture of the Department of Medicine (DOM) more respectful and inclusive for all students and faculty. 

Dr. Gagliardi, in collaboration with Dr. Melanie Bonner, assistant dean for student services for the SOM, has created the office of Le Well. This initiative aims to centralize services and support for students involved in the health care learning environment, ensuring that all students, regardless of program, advisor, connections or identity, feel valued and supported as they undertake their SOM program. 

To further Le Well's mission and improve learning environments at DOM, Dr. Gagliardi and her team have focused on three key domains: health services, learning support, and community building. Over the past 10-11 months, significant strides have been made in each area, guided by data from student surveys and feedback from various committees and task forces. 

A major achievement in health services has been the collaboration with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). This partnership has enabled CAPS to provide counseling services within the Trent Semans Center for Health Education (TSCHE). Since mid-January, a CAPS counselor has been available on-site three days a week, with extended hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This initiative aims to make mental health services more accessible and reduce barriers to care, and it has been well-received by the students. 

In the realm of learning support, efforts have been concentrated on improving learning assessments and support, accommodations and accessibility in the clinical learning environment, and testing. Under the leadership of Dr. Bonner, the team has been working with the Student Disability and Accommodations Office (SDAO) and program-specific student disability liaisons (SDLs). The goal is to clarify policies and processes to ensure that all programs adhere consistently to essential curricular elements and adequately support students’ ability to meet these requirements. 

Dr. Gagliardi petting a dog outside at an event
Dr. Gagliardi at the "popsicles and puppies" event

Community building has been another area of focus, with several initiatives aimed at fostering a sense of belonging and well-being among students. The Wednesday Wellness Workshops, some conducted in partnership with Duke Arts Create, have been a highlight. Duke Arts Create’s twice-monthly workshops have covered a variety of topics and activities, from mindful water coloring to weaving. Additional Wednesday Wellness Workshops have included culinary medicine, mindfulness and stress reduction through movement-based sessions. Additionally, the team has organized "popsicles and puppies" sessions and various other engaging activities to promote student well-being. 

Dr. Gagliardi recently shared detailed insights into these initiatives at the DOM Medicine Grand Rounds (MGR) on May 31 with a presentation entitled “The Power of Seeing: Creating Positive Learning Environments Across Generations” with Dr. David Gordon, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at SOM. They reviewed recent Duke data on medical student education and discussed best practices to better engage our medical learners.

This talk is for anyone interested in understanding generational differences in teaching & learning styles and knowing more about how best to engage medical students in your clinical and research practice. If these topics appeal to you, you will not want to miss this talk.

Watch "The Power of Seeing: Creating Positive Learning Environments Across Generations” here: https://warpwire.duke.edu/w/9VQIAA/

For those who could not attend, MGR is an excellent opportunity to engage with the innovative work being done at Duke School of Medicine. We encourage all students, faculty, and staff to attend future MGR sessions in person to stay informed and involved in these important developments.