Melissa Bregger, MD, assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine, has been named assistant medical director for continuing medical education at Feinberg.
Bregger completed medical school and her residency at Northwestern, where she developed an interest in quality and process improvement that she now applies in her role as medical director at 15 East, an inpatient medicine-telemetry unit.
“What really excited me about joining the Office of Continuing Medical Education was that it’s not just about physician education and checking boxes for continuing medical education requirements. It’s across all disciplines in the healthcare system,” Bregger said. “So much about the future of continuing medical education excited me, and I’m looking forward to using my love of education and process improvement, as well as my creative, innovative side, to shape this role to be my own.”
Read a Q&A with Bregger and Clara Schroedl, MD, medical director for continuing medical education, below.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your background.
Bregger: I’m originally from Cleveland. I’m also a first-generation college graduate. My grandma, who was an immigrant from Puerto Rico, taught fourth grade in the Cleveland Public Schools for over 40 years. She taught English as a second language. So, I have a passion for education in my genes.
I had a whole different career before I pursued medical school. I used to be a full-time clinical researcher and then decided to pursue medicine. I came to Northwestern for medical school and then stayed for my residency in internal medicine.
This is my sixth year as a faculty member here at Northwestern, and I’ve served various roles. A big emphasis in my background and training has been in quality improvement or process improvement.
I also have another role as unit medical director of 15 East, which is an inpatient medicine unit. In that role, I work very closely with all sorts of different disciplines, especially nurses, but really everyone from patient care techs to environmental services to respiratory therapists and everyone in between.
Dr. Schroedl, what are you looking forward to as your team grows?
Schroedl: Our office has a really big footprint and it’s only gotten bigger over the last several years as the Northwestern Medicine health system has grown larger.
In addition to growth, we’ve had disruption related to COVID-19 and the changing needs of physicians and platforms for delivering education.
We have a lot of different learners to reach and we are trying to be creative in developing education to meet the needs of every type of learner. We’re really excited to have Dr. Bregger join us, so that we can think creatively about new strategies to educate all our learners, whether that’s our physicians or, as she mentioned, our entire interprofessional team.
Not everybody wants to just sit in a lecture hall and get an hour-long didactic lecture. We need to think about ways to make it interactive and high-value. We don’t want to educate without the content actually leading to change in performance and the ability to care for our patients.
Having Dr. Bregger to think through strategies to help CME activity planners innovate and create more impactful education is really exciting.
What’s your vision for continuing medical education (CME) at Feinberg?
Schroedl: There are several priorities. First is focus on team-based education. Healthcare is evolving in such a way that we’re not in isolation. We really need to focus on team-based education and creating activities to address learning needs of the whole team. Second is technology. How can we take all this amazing new technology and use it to our advantage within education to help make learning more efficient and relevant?
It’s interesting, within academic medicine, we focus on the learning needs of our medical students and trainees. And yet we also have so many faculty who have ongoing learning needs that span their entire career. It’s important to think about opportunities for these learners.
And the needs change, right? We must stay current not just with new diseases or treatments, but also the ability to navigate the complex evolving health system. It’s especially challenging because once training is complete, there is much less time for dedicated learning.
Creating education that meets the needs of this really wide and diverse group of people is what we need to strive for.
Bregger: I think one thing that interests me longitudinally is using technology to help people adapt CME into their lifestyle. One possibility could be creating an app with interactive modules that would allow faculty to do short activities on their phone while waiting for an elevator ride instead of attending a conference and getting all their CME in bulk.
One thing Dr. Marianne Green mentioned that I found fascinating is the use of artificial intelligence to identify educational gaps or applicable clinical topics. For example, looking at a panel of patients coming in over the next month and identifying common clinical conditions, and then populating CME opportunities geared towards optimizing care for those patients.
Additionally, there are many quality or performance metrics already being tracked for individual clinicians. Leveraging this data to identify areas for improvement and then targeting interactive CME towards those areas is likely the future. In this way, you can customize CME to the performance of an individual to make it more useful and more tangible. That’s where the future of CME might be going. I also believe many clinicians are learning through non-traditional means, such as using Twitter, Instagram, or podcasts; finding creative ways to incorporate CME into things people are already doing is key. To piggyback off what Dr. Schroedl said, we need to incorporate technology to optimize performance and make CME more impactful, accessible and approachable.
Are there any CME activities that you’re especially passionate about?
Schroedl: Health Equity Week, which is organized by Drs. Oluwateniola Brown and Linda Suleiman, is a really nice example of using CME to reach a wide breadth of learners. Our students, McGaw trainees, faculty, nursing, and hospital administration all benefit from this education.
Bregger: I’m personally very excited about the Women in in Medicine conference. There are so many topics that are pertinent to me as a woman physician, to help me feel empowered and overcome imposter syndrome, and also learn how to network and leverage opportunities.
Schroedl: I think that these two conferences highlight a really important aspect of CME, which is creating community around education. As learners, we get excited when we get to spend time together learning. It’s not just about gaining new knowledge about the next best thing in management of a disease — it’s really being able to spend time with our friends and colleagues that makes CME such a fun and important space to be in. The CME office really wants to be a partner to those who are looking to plan education.