A Day in the Life of a CE: Jonas Nordquist

By: Jamiu Busari

Jonas Nordquist, PhD

Director, Medical Case Centre  –Karolinska Institutet

Associate Director Residency Programs – Karolinska University Hospital

Visiting Associate Professor – College of Medicine, University of Qatar, Doha

Visiting Scholar – Wilson Centre, University of Toronto

  1. What is your educational background?

Jonas Nordquist is a political scientist by training and has been in medical education for the last 15 years.  He spends half of his time as a researcher in medical education at the Karolinska Institutet and the other half as associate director for residency training for the 43 residency programs at the Karolinska University Hospital.

Asked how he got into medical education, Jonas responds with a smile, “When I enrolled to study political science, I set out wanting to be a black tie civil servant, working in parliament or a ministry. However, during my program I did a lot of teaching, and detected that I loved teaching and working with students.  When I finished my PhD in 2001, I was privileged to stay to teach political science at Stockholm University as an assistant professor. After 3 years however, I felt I was done and wanted to do something else”. Luckily, an opportunity arose for Jonas to work on educational development at the KI and he has been there since with no plans to move anywhere else.

After his switch to medical education, Dr Nordquist thought he had left his career in political science behind him. Wrong. He explains; “there is so much politics going on in medical schools on how they are run but also on how curricula could be seen from a political perspective.” Jonas elaborates on this by referring to a paper he wrote.  He argues that if you look closely at curricular reform in medical schools, one would notice various factions and metaphors/labels used to describe them. For example, the “primary care” party, the “conservative surgeons” party, the “elitist internal medicine” party. These metaphors tend to carry weight in different countries and often impact the outcome of curriculum reform in general. Understanding these different factions and labels in terms of interest groups or political parties may not true in a political sense (as they are not voted for). However, this lens explains the phenomena of interest groups and joint interests in a medical school. Consequently he says, it helps deans and senior executives understand different constituents better and what they are trying to achieve within their organizations.

  1. What percentage of your time is spent in clinical practice, teaching activities, educational research and administrative work?

Jonas responds saying that 50% of his time goes to education research, 15% to teaching, 15% to international engagements (conference talks, lecturing and consulting) and the remaining 20% is devoted to administrative tasks. Struggling, Jonas concludes that in reality the perceived time allocated to all of his professional tasks exceeds a 100% and is closer to 150%. Asked if he enjoys the pace, he smiles saying, “yes, I love it, not every day of course, but every moment of it”.  He concludes with the following remark, “every job has its ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade my job for any other thing I can think of.

  1. How do you enjoy your diverse (portfolio) career?

It begins in the classroom he says, where he is an expert in the interactions of the classroom. As a director in charge of curriculum implementation, he also sees the classroom flow from a different educational design perspective. About six years ago, Jonas was appointed as director for the re-development of the KI campus. His task was to redesign physical learning spaces to facilitate learning throughout all spaces on campus. This project (also the focus of his educational research) has been a thrilling experience so far.

  1. What challenges to you experience; how do you manage them?

The first challenge is finding time to “sit down and do proper reading”. Jonas argues that travelling around and telling the same story over and over again at international meetings and conferences loses value after a while. Therefore, it is important to regularly find time to sit down, read and reflect and find new material and ideas.  This is pretty challenging for him considering the breadth of his job description.

A second challenge he is facing is the “de-hibernation” he is experiencing by being on the “stage” for too long. People have high expectations, so you need a balance between being on the cutting edge of your game and finding time to relax.  Jonas is a husband and father of three children and in between his professional and personal life he manages to keep his balance by running six days a week. He is an avid long distance runner, running 3 marathons this year. Running serves as a form of therapy to clear his head.  When he is not running, you can find Jonas visiting an art gallery or taking photographs.

Three tips

Asked which 3 tips he would offer junior CEs, Jonas responds:

  1. Establish your network, connect with other people
  2. Always think about the “added value”: Solutions might be in related, but indirect, areas. Look sideways, don’t just look deep
  3. Ask yourself continuously how you can be different: You should keep on asking yourself, how can I do things differently? How can I add value?

Above all keep balanced!

(From the E-i-C:  If there is a Clinician Educator that you would like to see profiled, drop us a line at ice@royalcollege.ca)