Why I Teach: Dr. Erin Bonura

Dr. Erin Bonura

Erin Bonura, M.D. F '12 F '14, M.C.R. '18, is assistant professor of medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, OHSU School of Medicine. Her teaching roles include director of the Pre-Matriculation Block and director of the Foundations of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology Thread in the M.D. program and associate director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program.

I've always wanted to teach. Back in college, I was a tutor working with Dr. Brunauer, an organic chemistry professor who made it look very natural. Her teaching was problem-based. She was always engaging students with the content and having fun. I wanted to teach like her. I even thought about becoming an ochem professor myself but ultimately became a clinician-educator.

This is what I'm meant to do. When I'm in session teaching, I'm my goofy self. There are jokes, laughing. And I hope what I'm saying creates sense and meaning out of the content I'm teaching.

When I first started out, I needed to hone my teaching skills; everybody does. It is important to be trained in education science and theory at some level. One of the most valuable things I've done is the Education Scholars Program but also the Master's in Clinical Research Program. I've also benefited from excellent one-on-one mentorship and sponsorship, in particular Drs. Judy Bowen, Elizabeth (Betsy) Haney and Patty Carney and staff at the Teaching and Learning Center.

I've been involved in the M.D. curriculum changes since 2013. It was a big opportunity with a lot of challenges because you are reconstructing all the components. And it doesn't end with the first year; it's a continual improvement process. We are constantly in conversation amongst ourselves and with peers nationally about the best way to deliver content over time and how to integrate threads into organ-block systems. The curriculum is never at a stopping point, which is part of what makes this role so interesting.  

It's an exciting time to be in education because there is so much innovation happening right now and engagement in outcomes research. It's the age of finding the most effective way to teach. There are a lot of opportunities.

I'm lucky to teach students longitudinally so I get to see them come full circle. Recently, I got to see fourth years present their cases at the end of intersession. I remember teaching them as first years when they were just starting to learn the material. I got chills watching them present. They'd mastered the subject. I mean, they knew it. That's a pretty cool moment.   

Teaching is about helping people come to an understanding. You're fulfilling something for them, but also for yourself. You are giving something but also getting something back. It takes time, but as faculty, we've all been so fortunate to have amazing educators help us get to where we are today. You never know if you might be that teacher for the next person.

About Why I Teach

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