First-year medical students learning via simulation. (Photography courtesy University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine) Holly Humphrey portrait. (© Eileen Ryan Photography)

The Pritzker path

As the Pritzker School of Medicine moves into the US News top ten, Dean for Medical Education Holly Humphrey, MD’83, discusses the school’s priorities.

As the Pritzker School of Medicine moves into the US News top ten this year, Dean for Medical Education Holly Humphrey, MD’83, discusses the school’s priorities.


Pritzker has many programs for training teachers of medicine. What is the school’s role in American medical education?

Taking a rigorous approach to advancing the study of medicine, Pritzker faculty and students instill in themselves and one another a habit of active learning—a skill essential to clinicians and teachers. In turn, students and residents are exposed to and motivated by active and engaged faculty and colleagues. Our students and residents often pursue careers in academic medicine, as evidenced by historically high percentages of those who are members of medical-school faculties across the country. Our educational programs help us work together as a community to support developments in medical education and to ensure that we continue to learn and grow as educators in our own right.

How will the Bucksbaum Institute, meant to improve the doctor-patient relationship, change Pritzker’s culture?

While we have always aimed to provide our students with the tools and the understanding of a potentially transformative relationship, the Bucksbaum Institute provides more in-depth resources to support the patient-doctor relationship. These resources will likely come in an array of means and modes—financial support, shared expertise from medical faculty and from scholars and learners from other disciplines, mentorship, and so on. The Bucksbaum Institute’s creation is a powerful reminder of the deeply meaningful patient-doctor relationship often forged during especially difficult and vulnerable periods.

How does the Bowman Society Lecture Series, named for James E. Bowman, professor emeritus in pathology and medicine and the Biological Sciences Division’s first tenured African American, fit with Pritzker’s overall approach to teaching students about the diverse set of patients they might encounter in their careers?

We believe that students who are aware of, and sensitive to, the prevalence of health-care disparities will better serve their future patients and entire patient populations. The Bowman Society echoes this sensibility by bringing the University community together to focus attention on scholarship that is important to the health care of minority communities and to provide support and career development to individuals at all levels of training in order to support multicultural diversity in the Biological Sciences Division.

Where does research come in?

Each Pritzker student is required to pursue a mentored scholarly project in one of five tracks: scientific investigation, medical education, quality and safety, community health, or global health. We encourage our students to dig deep into an area of scholarship that is both of interest to them and through which they believe they can make meaningful contributions to science and medicine.

What areas of medicine attract the majority of Pritzker students?

The majority of our students pursue residency programs in internal medicine. In the past six years, 21–26 percent of the class has matched into this specialty. While many Pritzker graduates will continue their training after residency by pursuing a subspecialty fellowship, others will work as general internal-medicine physicians, both in private practice and in academic medicine.

How will the New Hospital Pavilion, scheduled to open in 2013, improve student learning?

The New Hospital Pavilion will give students the opportunity to engage with sophisticated medical technologies in a digitally connected environment, immersing themselves more fully in the multidisciplinary nature of the practice of medicine. Although our students will be learning and training in a highly advanced and new environment, it is also important to recognize that they will continue to be taught by faculty entirely committed to their education. Regardless of venue, the Pritzker School of Medicine places great emphasis on providing students with a rigorous education supported by invested, accomplished faculty who teach about the broad scope of medicine—both in the basic and clinical sciences.

In 2010 you edited Mentoring in Academic Medicine. What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned about mentoring?

The most important thing that I gained by having extraordinary mentors and then taking a deep look into the scholarly work in the field is the multigenerational impact of strong, effective mentoring. A single mentor can have a profound effect on students and residents for years to come. “Memes” are the cultural analogues to genes, serving as a basis for explaining the spread of ideas, values, and beliefs from one generation to the next. In serving as a mentor, one has the privilege of sharing knowledge, expertise, insight, and experience in a similar fashion, which can ultimately affect generations far beyond the most immediate recipient.