Leading as a medical educator
Laura Ciaccia West, PhD, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, has been selected as a Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Fellow, a certificate program from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The membership of the AAMC, which is based in Washington, D.C., includes all 149 accredited United States and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools. The yearlong LEAD program is designed to develop health education leaders, and West said she is looking forward to the experience.
After earning her PhD in immunology from Yale University, West has been serving in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology in the College of Medicine since 2016. She is involved in the immunology curriculum for first-year medical students and has an interest in education and pedagogical innovation. She studied at the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning, worked extensively as a teaching assistant at Yale and consulted with Teach for America during her PhD training. “I was happy to get involved with medical education at Texas A&M,” West said. “I am a course director for Introduction to Disease, a pre-clerkship course at the College of Medicine and am currently on the curriculum committee. I am particularly interested in teaching basic science to medical students.”
West’s research centers on mitochondria, organelles within cells that generate energy and perform other metabolic processes. When mitochondria are damaged and dysfunction, they elicit inflammation and immune responses. A current project, funded by a grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, focuses on how mitochondrial dysfunction shapes immune responses to melanoma.
West is among approximately 60 participants selected annually for the LEAD program. As part of this program, she will attend two workshops this year, where participants complete hands-on, applied learning activities with guidance from a LEAD faculty. They are also assigned a faculty coach to deepen the understanding of LEAD concepts. Modules include leading through strategic vision, leading by developing others, leading by effective management and leading by organizational development. With guidance from the coach, participants make an applied leadership focus presentation at an AAMC Regional Educational Meeting before graduating from the program.
“I have been passionate about science education throughout my career, first as a PhD student studying immunobiology and now as a pre-clerkship course director,” West said. “I am thrilled about this opportunity to develop as an educational leader in order to better serve and represent Texas A&M University Health Science Center.”