Audio Insights: Chat with the Chair—An Interview with Bobbi Pritt, M.D. (Part 1)

William Morice, II, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (DLMP) at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and President of Mayo Medical Laboratories (MML), sits down with Bobbi Pritt, M.D., Vice Chair of Education, Director of the Clinical Parasitology Lab, and Co-Director of Vector-Borne Diseases Lab Services in DLMP. Dr. Pritt discusses what's going on with education in the department. Connect with Dr. Morice on Twitter @moricemdphd to let him know what you would like to hear next.



Dr. William Morice, II: Hi, Everybody. My name is Bill Morice. I am your department chair of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology here at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and I am joined today by one of our vice chairs of the department, Dr. Bobbi Pritt, who is the Vice Chair of Education. Bobbi, welcome.

Bobbi Pritt, M.D.: Thanks, Bill. It is great to be here.

WM: So, as those of you listening may or may not know, I like to get a chance to speak with the different important people in the department who help manage our big and complex enterprise, and so I am really thrilled to be joined today by Dr. Bobbi Pritt. Bobbi, you just seem like such a natural with education, with your creativity and all of your great ideas, but I do not know that anyone is truly a natural. So, obviously, you have been kind of cultivating your craft over time. What spurred your interest in education?

BP: Hmm, yes, good question. I mean, I have always been interested in the academic environment and educating others and sharing information. And my work, I guess, as an educator started when I was an undergrad, and I started being a science tutor for learning-disabled students. That was quite a challenge. And then later in medical school, I was a teaching assistant for gross anatomy. That was a lot of fun . . . using different types of skills because you are teaching dissection and very visual things. And then in residency, I taught the pathology labs to medical students. So, as I was doing all of this, as I was interacting with students—which I loved—I started trying to challenge myself on better ways to deliver educational material. And, even though I did not know it at the time, I was embarking on metacognition and metacognitive principles. I did not know what those were at the time, but essentially that is thinking about one’s thinking—How do you learn things, and how do you know when you have learned them? So, it is the process of planning, monitoring, and assessing your learning and performance. And, I remember looking back, and I was amazed that a lot of students did not really have a process for learning information. One of my students told me he studied for exams by looking at a piece of paper with the information in front of him, and he then closed his eyes, and, if he could visualize where things were on the paper, then he felt like he was prepared for the exam, but it was not working out for him. And he did not really have a process to test his theory if he actually knew the information so that got me interested more in the science of education, and I wanted to know how others learned and how I could do better with that.

WM: Wow! So you have a real passion for it.

BP: Yes, I do.

WM: That is awesome, and I think that it shows in the great work that you do for the department, which we will get to in just a second.

BP: Thank you.

WM: But I think it really speaks to the power of if people can identify those things that truly inspire them and find ways to bring those inspirations into their work. It just energizes those around them and makes our jobs more enjoyable. And it is interesting that you mentioned the methodology. I will be teaching at Mayo's med school this week, actually, and I really love it. And it is education. Maybe I am "old school." I probably am old school, although I hate to admit it. I try to dress hip, but I am still old school. But in all seriousness, I have come to a realization that just like in management, there is a real methodology to how you manage organizations, and I have been really invested in learning more about that. There is also a methodology to how we learn. And I think as someone who was in education until almost my thirties, I did not realize that there is a whole science behind it.

BP: There is, and things that you think are working for you, actually science has shown that they really do not, like highlighting your text. Many people have four different colors of highlighters and go through their texts and highlight and highlight and highlight. But in the end, they were not really learning the material. It has been shown not to be an effective method.

WM: Wow, interesting.

BP: So, my job is to take that science behind education and incorporate it into what we do in DLMP because we are educating very diverse audiences in our department.

WM: Yeah, well that is a great segue, and it is so cool that you do that. I know there are others in the department whom you have inspired to do the same, like Dr. Justin Kreuter, which is fantastic. So, one of the things that has come up as I have gone and spoken to some of the different divisions and maybe in the context of our "innovation strategy" or in the context of a leadership change is the sense that—Are we more than just a service-oriented department? And, to me, working at Mayo Clinic is not just about the present, but it is about creating something for the future. I mean, that is really what our founders did as well, being invested in the future of health care and in the future of medicine. So, the two things that drive this are research and education. So, the education "shield" at Mayo is critically important for what we should be doing to further health care in this country and around the globe. And, that is why I would just like to talk a little bit about your vision for education in the department, but also just as important, how many different diverse educational activities we have going on in the educational groups that are coming through.

BP: I agree, Bill, because it is not just educating the students that come in on a temporary basis, even though those are the ones we think of often—our residents and fellows, our students in our allied health school programs. But all of our employees have ongoing education needs, and we are hoping that they will spend their careers at Mayo Clinic if that is what is right for them. Well, they need continuing education. They all need to have orientation when they start, and as new programs happen in the department, they need training. The electronic health record system (called Epic) is a good example. So, just breaking it down then into simple terms, I think of education in DLMP as encompassing four main areas. We have all of our employees—the people who are here, which includes all of our allied health staff and our consultants. They have ongoing needs for education. How can we meet those? And I mentioned orientation. In the past two years, we have undergone DLMP orientation for 760 new employees. So, that is our Education Office providing specific education for DLMP-based education beyond what the institution does, and we have had great success. Our new employees have said, "Wow, I have never felt so welcomed to a new department. This is the first place I have ever worked where I felt like I actually knew what I was embarking on, and I am really excited about it." That is just an example of what we do for our staff and our employees. But then, of course, we have our graduate medical education, our pathology residency, which was founded in 1953 (which I think is amazing, that history), and we now have, as of 2018, 19 fellowships. The new ones are clinical informatics and cellular therapy, and we have quite an appetite for growth for graduate medical education, so we have to be very deliberate and really look at the big picture. Can we really maintain excellence with all of the programs—our existing and new ones? We have full accreditation status for all of our programs, and they are really recognized as excellent programs throughout the United States. Then, we have all our allied health schools that provide our employees of the future. We have eight programs and internships, and then something that is more of a "partner" with DLMP education is our Mayo Medical Laboratories Education team. And those staff members provide, as we all know, live and on-demand educational offerings, live conferences, and face-to-face client visits. They provided, in the past year, 125,000 certificates for our continuing education credit. So, yeah, we have a very diverse and rich Education Office and offerings within DLMP.


WM: That is amazing, and I think the audience should know that one of the things that I have to do with the leadership team every year is go to the OCG, the Operations Coordinating Group. And when we go there, the vice deans or representatives of the executive vice deans of Mayo Clinic challenge me as the chair of this department on what I am doing in the three "shields" of Mayo Clinic—practice, education, and research. And last year when we went, Dr. Rose, who was there representing education, basically said DLMP is a shining example of what education should be at Mayo Clinic. He said, "I wish we could replicate what you are doing across the institution, and I have such high praise." In talking to you, Bobbi, it is pretty clear why we are so dang good. I am just so appreciative of that, and I think everyone should be as well. It is really interesting that you pointed out the new employee orientation. I know you have done some work with the consultants as well. I came on staff here, and I just showed up. I had been a resident and fellow here, and the next day, they said, "Guess what? You are on staff, and now you have an office."

BP: Yep, there is your office. It is down the hall.

WM: Exactly. At the time, it was a little disorienting, but there are actually a lot of good studies and research that show that the way that you onboard employees—even if they are familiar with your organization—leads to long-term satisfaction with your job. I had to learn on the fly, and you did too, but now, you provide for physicians and scientists as well as our allied health staff, which I think is fantastic.

Thank you very much, Dr. Pritt. I look forward to talking to you again to hear more about what is going on in the department—specifically, some of the activities where you are taking all of your experiences and focusing some of those efforts in the department. I look forward to speaking to you again soon about some of the education efforts here in DLMP.

BP: It is my pleasure, Bill. Thank you.


William Morice, II, M.D., Ph.D.

William Morice, II, M.D., Ph.D., is the Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (DLMP) at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and President of Mayo Medical Laboratories. Dr. Morice received his M.D./Ph.D. degrees from the Mayo Graduate School in 1993 and completed his subsequent pathology residency and hematopathology fellowship at Mayo Clinic.