A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CE: Kristina Dzara


Kristina Dzara (@KristinaDzara)
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Assistant Director, Education and Science Initiatives, Brigham Education Institute
Educational Research Associate, Massachusetts General Hospital
Social Media Strategist, Harvard Macy Institute
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Kristina Dzara, PhD, MMSc, is a Medical and Health Professions Educator whose career has intersected research, education, and administration in academic medicine for over a decade. While working at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and Yale School of Medicine, she decided she needed more formal training in social science and education. This led her to attend Harvard Medical School, where she learned about adult learning theory, curriculum development, cognitive science, assessment, qualitative and quantitative research methods, quality improvement, program evaluation, and technology in education while obtaining her Masters of Medical Sciences in Medical Education. After completing her master’s, Kristina joined the faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she develops educational scholarship with clinicians and trainees. Additionally, she serves as Assistant Director for Education and Science Initiatives at the Brigham Education Institute, and Social Media Strategist for the Harvard Macy Institute.

“Every day is different and exciting!”

When asked how she distributes her time across her various jobs and activities, she replies that most of her time is spent at the Brigham Education Institute designing and supporting individual and longitudinal professional development initiatives on topics intended to help practicing clinicians and trainees grow as educators and scholars. She also spends about day a week working as part of collaborative teams to develop educational scholarship, often helping with design, qualitative and quantitative data collection, analysis, interpretation, and ultimately moving projects to publication. Another 20 percent of her time is dedicated to managing social media for both the Brigham Education and Harvard Macy institutes, where she aims to continually connect members of the amazing worldwide medical and health professions education community.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as events at the Brigham Education Institute transitioned to the virtual setting, a silver lining was that they had educators engage with them from across the globe. “With increased use of Zoom and Twitter, we are able to communicate, collaborate, and share our work easier than ever before” she adds. She believes medical and health professions educators are some of the nicest, hardest working people you will ever meet, and she feels honored to work with them towards shared goals every day. “Every day is different and exciting!”

An autonomous career filled with meaningful work

Kristina is thankful every day to have a career that allows her enough autonomy to pursue projects of personal interest, but also gives her the ability to use her skill set to support clinician-educators develop, improve, and implement projects. Her favorite types of projects are those that evaluate and report results of unique educational initiatives in peer-reviewed literature. In conjunction with the tasks above, Kristina will occasionally fill roles that complement clinician-educator research needs, such as study recruiter, focus group interviewer, lead data collector, or data manager, to ensure deidentification and study integrity. She finds this work meaningful and fulfilling.

Various tasks, roles and responsibilities: a balancing act

Dr. Dzara admits to occasionally struggling with task management, and she tries to mitigate this by making a ‘to-do’ list each week. She prioritizes tasks based on a combination of urgency and importance and breaks down projects on her list into smaller manageable pieces: for example, setting a goal to write a “methods section” rather than the full manuscript. This way, “it feels like an achievement to cross items off my list, and I try to ensure I cross off both easy and challenging tasks.”

While she concedes it can be challenging to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities, she tries to embrace her inner growth mindset, reminding herself that we are all on improvement journeys as educators and scholars. She also remains conscious of her work/life balance and general wellness; “I try to prioritize my sleep, take long walks with my husband for exercise, and give myself a little time with Netflix to unwind”. Ultimately, she calls being a PhD medical and health professions educator “the best job in the world!”.

Three tips for Junior CEs: Seek multiple mentors, take a scholarly approach and stay up to date on #meded!

  1. Seek broad mentorship: You can never have too many mentors! Have peer and senior mentors inside and outside your discipline. Engage an army of professionals with diverse training who you can call upon for guidance. Do not stay siloed within your discipline or institution.
  2. Embrace a scholarly approach: Not every project is publishable and that is ok! However, when starting a new initiative, take a scholarly approach to the design, implementation, and evaluation. Using simple frameworks such as the 6 Step Approach to Curriculum Development in Medical Education, Glassick’s Criteria for Scholarship, or an educational pyramid in the planning process will result in a stronger outcome. A project which is designed as scholarship from the start is more likely to be publishable than a project which is “written up” at the end without adequate planning.
  3. Stay informed: Pay attention to what is going on in our field! Subscribe to journal e-tables of content, follow organizations and leaders on social media, attend webinars and virtual events, or join a tweet chat. Being informed about trends, knowing other educators, and engaging as part of a community will serve you well throughout your career.

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