The education of a medical professional never ends, nor should it.


“If you‘re a physician, the life of your practice may last 40 years,” says Michael Lischke, MPH, EdD, associate dean for continuing medical education and the Richard Janeway, MD, Distinguished Director of Northwest Area Health Education Center (AHEC). “You‘re going to continue learning.”

It‘s also true for researchers, PAs, CRNAs and nurses. From learning new procedures and techniques to maintaining licensure, all must continue learning in order to keep serving patients.

Alumni engage in discussion during class at Bowman Gray Center for Medical EducationTo help fill that need for alumni, leaders at the School of Medicine are working to define lifelong learning opportunities for graduates of all medical programs. Such opportunities would encompass more than continuing medical education (CME) classes. Possibilities could include lectures, presentations by academic departments and even Grand Rounds. Alumni input will be important.

“Everybody has to have education to keep their certification,” says Gail Curtis, PA-C ‘81, MPAS, associate professor and chair of PA Studies. “Most people would like to be able to come back to their school for that education or at least have that option, to keep that connection.”

Defining Lifelong Learning

Lisa Marshall, chief philanthropy officer and vice president of Philanthropy and Alumni Relations, says alumni seem eager to maintain those connections.

“What we‘re hearing is that it means more to our alumni if they can access a variety of learning opportunities at the institution where they started their career,” Marshall says.

Alumni engage in panel discussion“In addition to having gone to medical school here, many alumni also did their residency here, so they‘re very interested in tying in their learning directly to the clinical or research environments. They want to understand some of these new technologies and new clinical approaches in the context of a health system like ours.”

Given the pace of change in medicine, knowledge gaps are bound to develop.

“There are things we didn‘t teach in years past either because we didn‘t know it or didn‘t know that it was needed,” Lischke says. One example is work in health disparities, a field that may not have existed or been acknowledged as important when many older alumni earned their degrees.

Organizing Resources

The School of Medicine has formed a task force to identify existing educational resources to provide lifelong learning opportunities for alumni. Led by the Office of Philanthropy and Alumni Relations, the task force is composed of leaders from academics and research within the school. The team will include an alumnus and a student.

Among the existing resources identified that are available to alumni:

  • Dean‘s Research Symposia, which showcases leading research at the School of Medicine.
  • MD Alumni Weekend 2019, scheduled for May 3-5, a CME program will be offered on Friday, May 3.
  • Weekly Grand Rounds, which usually last an hour.
  • Special events, such as the Open Thinking programs offered through Wake Forest Innovations. An October 2018 forum on the opioid epidemic was opened to alumni and made available online.

What‘s Possible

Beyond current resources, school leaders say they want alumni to help define, through surveys and feedback, what lifelong learning opportunities will mean the most to them. Those opportunities may vary over time.

“Students who are graduating today are going to have very different needs 10 years from now than alumni who are now 10 years out,” Marshall says. “That‘s the beauty of keeping the term lifelong learning very broad. We don‘t want to make it too narrow because it needs to be ever-evolving.”

The goal is for the school to be ready when alumni turn to their alma mater for ongoing education.

“If you do it well, they will come back,” says E Shen, PhD, director of educational technology with the School of Medicine. “Alumni are more likely to want to learn it from their own professors.”

Dean's Research Symposia Series

The Dean‘s Research Symposia Series features Wake Forest School of Medicine investigators sharing bold thinking, the latest discoveries and their passion to improve health. All symposia, modeled on TED Talks, begin at 4 pm and last two to three hours. Upcoming presentations are:

  • April 24 Center for Experiential and Applied Learning/Medical Education
  • May 3 MD Alumni Weekend–Symposium Offered
  • Oct 7 Department of Radiology

For details and more information, email