Why I Teach - Marc Gosselin, M.D.

In October 2013, two members of the School of Medicine faculty were recognized by their peers for excellence in teaching. This Q&A series profiles recipients of the 2013 "Faculty Excellence in Education Award" and asks them the question, "Why do you teach?"

Gosselin, Marc 2February 24, 2014

This month's Q&A features Marc Gosselin, M.D., associate professor of diagnostic radiology.

Dr. Gosselin joined the Department of Radiology in 2001. He teaches medical students and residents in courses in diagnostic imaging, cardiopulmonary medicine, medical mythology, and some epidemiology. His main research interests involve medical mythology, pulmonary embolism, and physiology of cardiopulmonary imaging.

Dr. Gosselin's motto is "where all think alike, no one thinks very much."  

Q&A with Marc Gosselin, M.D.

What first attracted you to an academic career?

An intrinsic need to give back to the profession that I was so fortunate to be a part of, as well as a desire to be in an environment surrounded by other curious people from all specialties. Working in a private practice environment would simply not fit with my personality.

Why do you teach?

At the start it was to offer knowledge. But, as the years have gone by, it has evolved into a major source of learning for me. The faculty is a student, just one with more experience. I have a strong sense of curiosity and shall be a student for the rest of my life. I present information to others that is not quite the conventional, but what I have found to be better explanations to our actual observations. I encourage feedback and challenges that further refine these different ideas. Instructional/lecture time has actually evolved into the most important method for my learning. 

Ultimately, my instructional goal is to help produce a 'chef' for a physician, not a cook. A cook will follow the recipe every time, but a chef will start with a recipe and alter it on occasions, individualizing it to create something slightly different. The book of recipes we follow is not as large as the book of recipes we haven't tried or don't know about. This is the framework of my lectures/small group discussions. We certainly won't know everything in my, nor the student's lifetime, so it's up to the future generations to keep asking questions and remain skeptical, never feeling certain that what they know and practice is correct.

Are great teachers born, or are they made?

Some of both I guess. A sense of curiosity is a major requirement, which often leads to an ability to generate questions. Combine this with a passion for your topic and you have the raw materials to teach. Learning and acquiring different instructional techniques over the years, trial and error, and observing your audience can really help refine a teacher's effectiveness. Have you modeled your teaching style or philosophy on anyone? My physiology professor/advisor at college had a great influence on me. He was a conceptual and freethinking individual. His instruction style reflected his interest in the material and he rarely asked a recall question. His assessments were never multiple-choice. He always used different unknown scenarios that we had to puzzle together by applying the concepts we learned. His exams were actually fun to take!

What are the great challenges to teaching in the 21st century?

Information overload without a conceptual organization of the material is an issue. It's like being in a baseball batting cage where balls are hurled at you every second. You swing at them without understanding what you are doing. There is little down time to re-evaluate how to improve from the last pitch before the next ball is coming at you. It is often simply a reaction to swing away. It's not very thoughtful or truly learning. The technology can certainly be an assist, but it can also hinder thoughtful ideas if the flow of it is not managed correctly.

What do you think education will look like in the future?

Addressing the information overload students, residents and faculty are exposed to will be the challenge. Re-organizing the information into conceptual packages, both with online resources and in the classroom, more small group instruction, case/symptom based learning. More focus on how to effectively look up specific information or questions in the literature will hopefully be part of education as well. The many review websites are too often used, which lack an individualized approach to a patient's care.

Does the wide-ranging diversity of your students affect how you teach?

Absolutely, I count on it. I need others with an interest, passion and differing experiences to help me understand what they know. It is amazing how often I hear something I've not considered, then combine it with something another person said in an apparently non-related topic or observation … and there it is, another hypothesis generated that seems to better fit a piece of a puzzle that I've been struggling to solve. Along with self-observations, these different points of view and life experiences are necessary for all of us.

What advice do you have for people who want to teach?

Know your audience, what is relevant to them and what would keep their interest. Engage them as often as possible. Lecturing or reading off Power Point slides is a sure way the material will not be effectively absorbed. Start and end with concepts as much as possible. Let your enthusiasm for your topic show – this has a great effect of keeping the audience attention and interest. 

It is so important to learn how to directly observe and generate questions every day. Absolutely do not marry any idea or fact in medicine; it will likely be discovered to be only partially true or even false. With these concepts in mind, find the strength to step out of your comfortable shell. You are more vulnerable, but that is what separates the true learners/instructors from the vast majority of people. Humility is a helpful quality to have for this. Remember: where all think alike, no one thinks very much.