An Interview with L. Jane Easdown, MDCM, MPHE, FRCPC, the Winner of the 2022 SNACC Teacher of the Year – Lifetime Educator Award
The Teacher of the Year Award recognizes an active SNACC member who exemplifies a career dedicated to teaching and mentoring healthcare professionals or basic scientists in perioperative neurosciences. This year’s Teacher of the Year Award recipient is Dr. Jane Easdown. Dr. Easdown is a neuroanesthesiologist and Professor at Vanderbilt University. Throughout her distinguished career, Dr. Easdown has demonstrated a passion for education and patient safety. As a leader in education, Dr. Easdown’s accomplishments have previously been recognized, including notably as the recipient of the ASA SEA Distinguished Educator Award in 2019. Dr. Easdown has also been a dedicated contributor to SNACC, participating in various committees and initiatives. In 2022, she became the Chair of the ICPNT Fellowship Review Committee. In a letter supporting her nomination for the Teacher of the Year Award, one of her former mentees described her as “an absolutely unparalleled teacher and mentor.”
- What led you to a career in neuroanesthesiology?
As a resident, I always enjoyed my time in the neuro rooms. When I moved to Nashville and began work at Vanderbilt University, I was ready to commit to a subspecialty and was given the opportunity to work in the neuroanesthesiology division. I especially enjoyed the team spirit of neuro. I felt my clinical management made a difference to the surgery and patient outcomes. As a result of enjoying the science and the teamwork, I made it my career focus.
- How have mentors impacted your career?
I can say that every step of an academic career benefits from mentorship, sponsorship, and kind people! Every one of us needs support to turn our daily work into a scholarship worthy of promotion. For me, mentors have been individuals who share my love of teaching and recommended the right places to get the training I needed. And the people who offered me the opportunity to write a chapter or join a committee when I did not feel ready. I am thankful for those mentors because I could not have succeeded without them.
- What do you find to be the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of teaching and education? Has this changed over time?
Working with trainees is always rewarding! Finding the appropriate way to teach is a process that changes over time. When I started my academic career, I had just passed my exams and was up to date with all the answers! Residents loved that. But over time, you find anesthesiology moves on, and you are just as busy as they are catching up. I had to learn fibreoptic intubation and thoracic epidurals through workshops. Our students prefer to study using internet resources and Q & A format books. That is challenging because I still use textbooks and journal articles. So, not only is the content advancing, but the learning styles and teaching techniques must also change with the times. Challenge leads to innovation, however.
- What motivated you to pursue a Master of Health Professions Education, and how has this degree shaped you as an educator?
I had always wanted to commit more time to reading about education, and I was fortunate that Vanderbilt University had just begun a master’s course. I got the chance to read the classic papers and try different teaching methods. Education research methods are quite different from those you would use in basic science or clinical research. I developed as an educator, and it gave me confidence as a teacher of teachers. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn the scholarly approach to education.
- How has your experience as an educator impacted your work with ICPNT?
As an educator, I have been excited to see how other programs train fellows. Not only does the ICPNT accredit neuroanesthesiology fellowship programs, but it also offers opportunities for the programs to share educational material, such as curricula and assessment techniques, through webinars. The programs are international. It is a terrific opportunity to learn from others to improve our own programs.
- From the perspective of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, what can neuroanesthesiologists do to make education in the field more inclusive?
It is the obligation of all of us to examine our biases and be certain that our teaching includes the needs of all our learners. This is especially important when we are recruiting trainees and faculty. All physicians and patients benefit from diversity in the workforce. We must support this at every opportunity.
- What advice would you give to aspiring clinical educators?
If you plan an academic career with education as the focus, you must seek the right mentors and training. Scholarship in education is more than getting good teaching scores. Your progress will be marked by innovation in teaching, curriculum development, new assessment techniques, and mentoring others. And you need to share this with others through meetings and publications. Joining societies like SNACC, focusing on education, will give you opportunities to meet like-minded colleagues and share your experiences.
- Please complete this sentence: The greatest thing that someone taught me is…
…ask for feedback from your trainees. Dr. Robert Willenkin founded the Society for Education in Anesthesia (SEA) Workshop on Teaching in 1985 and taught at it every year. He suggests that at the end of the day, when you give your trainee feedback, you also ask, “What could I have done better today to improve your learning experience?”. You need to be brave! The answers can be illuminating. Teaching and learning are two-way streets, and there is always room to improve at any stage of your career