Williamson honored with international award for contributions to medical education

Published 12:01 pm Thursday, December 20, 2018

HARROGATE, Tenn. — Dr. Julie Williamson, small animal clinical skills director at Lincoln Memorial University-College of Veterinary Medicine (LMU-CVM), was awarded Miriam Friedman Ben-David Award at the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) Conference that took place Aug. 25-29, 2018, in Basel Switzerland.

The award was created in memory of the late Miriam Friedman Ben-David and is given to AMEE members who have made significant contributions within the field of health professions education at a local, regional, national or international level. Its aim is to recognize and reward excellence in achievements and contributions to the field of health professions education from a new educator.

“AMEE is an amazing organization because of its scope, encompassing health care educators of all types—medical, dental, nursing, veterinary—worldwide,” said Williamson. “I’m honored to be recognized as an accomplished new educator. I’m also encouraged that they chose to recognize a veterinary educator, as we tend to be fewer in number, less formally organized, and therefore less visible than other health care educator disciplines.”

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Williamson also serves as co-director of the clinical skills courses that students take for the first six semesters of the LMU-CVM curriculum. She joined the LMU faculty in 2011. Additionally, Williamson consulted on LMU-CVM curriculum design while the program was under development.

“Dr. Williamson’s vision, creativity and diligence were central in the design of our clinical skills program,” said LMU-CVM Vice President and Dean Jason Johnson.

Williamson has set out to create an improved system of veterinary surgical training with no terminal animal use and better educational outcomes. She developed and coordinated the delivery of a mandatory six-semester, 17.5-credit clinical skills program that is taught by approximately 30 faculty.

The implementation of clinical skills training has been challenging according to Williamson because of the wide variety of species and procedures that veterinarians must know and the smaller budgets and shorter training time as compared to the medical profession. With limited resources, Williamson designed and built low-fidelity task trainers to teach early medical and surgical skills such as ligation and suturing. Over time her model-building supplies shifted from wood and fabric to platinum-cure silicone as the realism and complexity of the simulators increased with the students’ advancing skills. She later hired veterinary students and a full-time model-builder to develop and construct the simulators.

“I established an assessment program to ensure students reach mastery standards before proceeding to live animal surgery,” said Williamson. “I’m honored and humbled to say that I sent my first class of students into their final year of veterinary school with better surgical skills than I had when I graduated—with no terminal animal use.”

During the four years Williamson has worked at LMU, she has taught approximately 500 students. Along the way she has collected data to evaluate the program and simulators so that other veterinary colleges could benefit from her work. Williamson received a Masters of Science by Research from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine for her simulation-based educational research and has been honored with an associate fellowship from AMEE. She has collaborated with educational researchers in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, and presented research on veterinary clinical skills and simulation at international conferences in the U.S., Canada, Caribbean, U.K., Ireland, Germany, Italy and South Africa. Williamson has published 10 peer-reviewed educational studies, including those on the design and validation of simulators for thoracocentesis, chest tube thoracotomy, abdominal palpation, injection and venipuncture, castration and ovariohysterectomy.

Along with colleagues, Williamson also helped establish the Center for Innovation in Veterinary Education and Technology (CIVET) at LMU-CVM, to share tools, training and research with other veterinary educators to advance the knowledge of veterinary education.

“This award provides international recognition that we’ve accomplished something special here at LMU,” said Williamson. “We’ve created a veterinary school with a strong clinical skills program with innovative models that teach real, transferrable skills for practice-ready graduates.”