Message from the LCI Chair

Dear Learning Communities Institute Members:

This month marks one year since the first lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 in North America. During the last twelve months, the pandemic has upended almost every aspect of what we once considered normal life. We are watching the outcomes of known healthcare disparities in our system negatively affect communities of color due to the pandemic.  We are also witnessing an elevated awareness of and reckoning with longstanding practices of systemic racial oppression and injustice in our nation. And if that is not enough, a tense political season caused distress and continues to disrupt our democracy. Yet, even during this darkened and stressful time, many have found a renewed sense of purpose, a re-evaluation of the things in life that are truly valuable, their own repositories of resiliency, and causes for hope.  

There were many reasons for cheer in the LCI this past year, and none more than our annual meeting, held online, and hosted by UT Southwestern Medical Center, with technical support from Stanford University School of Medicine. The meeting included members from over 55 institutions across North America, and we were honored to have Sandrijn van Schaik, MD, as our keynote speaker.  This meeting would not have been possible without the leadership of Jim Wagner and Heather Smith, at UT Southwestern; Lars Osterberg, at Stanford University School of Medicine; Susan Shultz, at Johns Hopkins University; and the entire annual meeting planning team. Together, they were able to pull off a meeting that might have been virtual in delivery, but felt very real, personal, and warm. If you are interested in reviewing the meeting presentations and workshops, you can visit http://learningcommunitiesinstitute.org/, and click on the LCI Members Login link.  

We are thrilled to announce this year’s meeting will be hosted by our friends and colleagues at Tecnológico de Monterrey, in Monterrey, Mexico, October 15-17. We are hopeful we can have the meeting in person but will be prepared for a virtual meeting if needed. Be on the lookout for more information, and in the meantime, think about how you might play a role in presenting a poster, co-leading a workshop, or sharing your research through an oral presentation.  

The LCI continues to grow, with 47 institutional members and 8 individual members. A reminder, July 15, 2021 is the date to renew your institution’s membership. Our membership and professional development committees are partnering this year to expand consulting resources available for member institutions as well as more ways to share best practices and ideas. If you have questions about becoming an institutional member or renewing your membership, please reach out.  

Building on the work done by several past chairs and members of the LCI communications committee, we celebrated the launch of a members’ section of the LCI website. This has been a multi-year project, and we hope the members’ section will become a useful repository of annual meeting workshops, webinars, and shared materials member schools can use to enhance and expand their own programs.   

Being part of a family means we share in our joys, and in our sadness, and this year, the LCI said good-bye to one of our own. Louise Arnold was a faculty member at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Medicine and one of the early leaders of the learning community movement in the United States. Louise received the Ron Arky Award in 2012, for her significant contributions to the development of learning communities in medical education. Please reflect on the tributes to Louise on the LCI website and at UMKC’s school of medicine page.  

As we begin 2021 and anticipate what’s to come, we recognize last year left us some unfinished business, which requires our attention. While we rejoice in the promise provided by vaccines, we must ensure the healthcare heroes who have been on front lines have the long-term support and care they need to process and recover from their experiences. This period has brought profound, and no doubt permanent changes to how we educate and train medical students, and we’ll need understand how these changes affect aspects of student wellness and the prevention of mistreatment. Last year reminded us once again of the diseases of racism and injustice that still infect our societies. We must continue to confront issues surrounding race and inclusion head-on, so that everyone at our institutions is safe, equal, and valued.  

The encouraging news is learning communities are in a unique position to play a role in the areas listed above. At the core of each are the concepts of relationship-building and caring for individuals, the very foundations of the work we strive to do in our local programs and on the national level through the Learning Communities Institute.  

The LCI will continue our work of building connections in medical education, not only because it is an effective way to educate and train, but also because, as we’ve been reminded this past year, connectedness is a vital component of what makes us human.  

So, let’s connect! If you have ideas, questions, want to get involved, or just need to chat, feel free to reach out. I can’t wait to see what we’ll accomplish this year, together.  

Stay safe and well,  

Noah Sig

Jason Noah 
Chair, Learning Communities Institute 
jnoah@uab.edu