QEP topic chosen for TAMHSC

When a thumbs-up from the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) meets with a stamp of approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), true achievements in quality education will be recognized. And, that’s just what the health science center intends in preparing for re-accreditation.

Dr. Nancy W. Dickey, president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and vice chancellor for health affairs for The Texas A&M University System says accreditation for the institution is necessary.

“It is required for recognition of our degrees, and for financial aid for our students,” she says. “Accreditation is the external affirmation that we are providing excellent education, a degree worthy of respect, and an infrastructure capable of supporting the educational mission.”

The plan

Currently, a TAMHSC accreditation committee is in high gear preparing for a SACS review in 2012. During this time, the entire health science center community will mobilize to meet a specific requirement of the SACS known as the QEP. The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) involves broad-based participation in selecting and focusing on a project that will enhance student learning throughout the institution. TAMHSC has been in the process of selecting one student-learning topic for the QEP.

Dr. McCallum, vice president for academic affairs emphasizes the relevance of the QEP.

“The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is an important and required component of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) re-accreditation process,” he says. “Unlike much of the work associated with accreditation, the QEP looks to the future. With this QEP process, we will not only enhance student learning, but we will also inculcate a new collegiality. We will generate a new paradigm as an example for upcoming generations of health care professionals. The selection of the QEP topic is one of the more important decisions the institution makes this year.”

The challenge

Unlike many Texas institutions of higher education reviewed for accreditation, the health science center is geographically dispersed across Texas. Having a presence at several academic units in many locations ensures a variety in health education experiences, but also poses a challenge in gaining consensus for one institution-wide QEP topic.

To address this challenge, a QEP Topic Proposal Selection Group comprised of the TAMHSC-SACS Leadership Team, three Faculty Senate representatives and a representative from the TAMHSC-Student Government Association provided the broad based participation needed to review the 20 QEP topic proposals submitted last spring, and choose the top three proposals for further development.

The selection committee reviewed proposed QEP topics submitted by faculty from all educational and geographic components of the health science center.

The selection

Dr. Eric Solomon, Baylor College of Dentistry professor and TAMHSC Director of Institutional Effectiveness, describes how the final phase of the QEP topic selection process worked.

“The selection group evaluated the initial 20 QEP Topics on the quality of topic proposals and results of the TAMHSC-wide QEP Topic Survey,” he says. “Individuals and groups who submitted the top three proposals were invited to expand upon their ideas by presenting more details.”

After broad and intense discussions, the SACS Leadership Team recently announced that “Improving Critical Thinking, Scientific Reasoning Skills” was selected as the QEP topic for the entire health science center. Drs. Bob Hutchins and Beverly York of the Baylor College of Dentistry submitted this proposal, and Dr. York agreed to serve as the director of the project.

Read the Pulse Q&A, where Dr. York and Dr. Hutchins describe their proposal.

“When I first heard about the QEP proposal, it encouraged me to share a vision to help students evaluate the sometimes ill-defined and often evolving problems encountered in health care,” said Dr. York. “I appreciate the expertise and collaboration of my colleague Dr. Bob Hutchins in preparing this QEP topic.”

Dr. Hutchins agrees with Dr. York about the significance of the QEP.

“This is very important work for the entire health science center,” he says. “Dr. York and I felt that most programs were already incorporating some elements of critical thinking. We felt that establishing a core set of critical thinking skills that would apply across disciplines would provide a unified approach in enhancing the health science center’s curriculum.

The future

And with that, the future of student learning at the health science center takes on new meaning, according to Dr. McCallum.

“With the QEP process, we will begin discussions about how we can improve student achievement, but it won’t end there,” he continues. “This discourse will become an integral part of doing the business of learning at the health science center. From the QEP process, we expect collegial cross-disciplinary ideas to emerge and subsequently to produce new student-learning models. It’s not just about accreditation; it’s about being the best we can be.”

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