North Carolina AHEC Program
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Wyeth Fellow finds a treasure trove of opportunities in North Carolina

Dr. Kamal NathavitharanaIn August 2009, National Association of Clinical Tutors/Wyeth Traveling Fellow Kamal Nathavitharana, MB BS, PhD, MRCP, FRCPCH, DCH, became the 32nd Fellow from the United Kingdom to visit North Carolina. Dr. Nathavitharana is a pediatrician and clinical tutor at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, clinical sub-dean at the University of Birmingham, and director of studies at the University of Warwick.

The focus of his visit was to study work-based assessments of residents. “We are good at assessing academic knowledge and practical skills in resuscitation courses, but assessing colleagues in the workplace remains a challenge” explained Dr. Nathavitharana. “It is an observational process, has to be witnessed first-hand and needs to be objective. I was grateful to be able to attend rounds, meet colleagues and observe the entire system, not just the assessment component. I learned organizational aspects, management and leadership styles, and quality improvement ideas.”

Although there are differences in terminology, ie: orientation (U.S.) vs. induction (UK), evaluation (U.S.) vs. assessment (UK), and work time regulations, Dr. Nathavitharana found that there are many similarities and much to be shared. “It is an exciting time to be visiting the States, with new healthcare reforms being discussed by the Obama administration” said Dr. Nathavitharana. “The importance of primary health care and prevention should receive its due attention.” He also finds the issue of work time vs. teaching time (service vs teaching – in the UK) for all doctors to be very interesting, noting that “they are two sides of the same coin and should work hand-in-hand.” The contrast between US colleagues aiming to provide training in an 80 hour week, with the same efforts being made by their UK counterparts in a 48 hour week, is stark!

In addition to his research on assessment, Dr. Nathavitharana was also able to learn about the AHEC system and the state of North Carolina. He observed that “AHEC is not only about medical education, but rather it is about multi-professional education. AHEC is successful because of two processes: on one side, there is the leadership that has set the vision for AHEC. However, just as, or, more importantly, there is enthusiasm and commitment on behalf of the AHEC staff, they have shared values and that is the real success of AHEC.”

Dr. Nathavitharana was touched by the friendliness and warmth of AHEC staff and the many colleagues he met in North Carolina. “AHEC staff members have an infectious enthusiasm for the work they do, which has proved inspirational to me as I return to my own work back in the UK. I am very grateful to everyone involved at NACT (UK) and AHEC in this exchange program, which I enjoyed immensely. I feel very privileged to have visited North Carolina, which is a beautiful place, and this Fellowship has offered a treasure trove of learning opportunities. I hope the program can continue to grow and include multi-professional colleagues in the future.”

Editor’s Note: In 1976, John Lister, MD, of the United Kingdom and Christopher Fordham, MD, of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine created the Wyeth Traveling Fellowship—an exchange program whereby AHEC-based faculty from North Carolina spent a month studying aspects of the British medical education and health services delivery system. In return, NC AHEC hosted fellows selected by the National Association of Clinical Tutors (NACT) from the UK. In 1996, the American portion of the exchange became known as the Eugene S. Mayer Fellowship thanks to contributions made in memory of the longtime NC AHEC director.