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West Reading Campus Meet John Repasch

By Lisa Ryan

John Repasch is the director of standardized patient, clinical skills and simulation at Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health in West Reading, Pa.

John Repasch, director of standardized patient, clinical skills and simulation

What simulation technology will be available to students at the West Reading campus? How will these resources enhance students' education and help them expand their skills?

As a brand new, state-of-the-art facility, the West Reading campus will offer a host of cutting-edge simulation technology that will work hand in hand with the Standardized Patient (SP) program to provide our students with an interactive learning experience. One example that will be utilized a lot is the SimMan 3G Plus, a realistic human patient simulator that can be used to portray all types of scenarios, requiring physical findings that would be difficult or dangerous to replicate with an SP.

Simulation technology has also played an expanded role in medical education since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help maintain social distancing in educational settings.

For people who might not be familiar, what is an SP, how do they interact with an MD program student, and how does this advance students' skills and education? How will students work with SPs at the West Reading Campus?

SPs are people trained to portray a medical patient. They interact with medical students and health care professionals to enhance their education and training or assess their performance. For the MD Program, the SPs’ role will primarily be providing interactive education based on the school’s curriculum. For example, SPs can help train students on physical exam maneuvers and provide them with real-time guidance and feedback on their techniques. Thus, students can get hands-on experience with real people in a lower-stakes environment, since none of the SPs are actually sick.

Please tell me more about your professional background, and what drew you to your new role at the West Reading campus.

Prior to joining Drexel, I worked for the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) for 24 years. ECFMG is responsible for certifying international medical graduates to enter residencies in the United States, and coincidentally, is located right around the corner from Drexel’s campus in University City. My career in clinical skills began when ECFMG got involved with the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 2CS exam in 2004, and I relocated to Houston to launch an exam center there. I returned to Philadelphia in 2008 to manage the two exam centers located on Market Street and was doing that up until the outbreak of COVID-19. USMLE ultimately decided to suspend the exam due to safety concerns, as the exam format required large numbers of employees and students to be in the same space for up to eight or nine hours. I found myself in search of a new career opportunity.

Thankfully, Drexel posted the director of standardized patient, clinical skills and simulation position not long afterward, and I was immediately drawn to it for a number of reasons. First, I am very familiar with Drexel, as my brother is an alumnus. After working near the University City campus, I have seen how much the school has evolved and grown over the past 25 years, and I hold it in high regard. Second, the director of SIM/SP position was very similar to what I had been doing with the USMLE Step 2CS exam, while the prospect of helping to develop a new program in a brand new facility was extremely exciting. Lastly, meeting and interviewing with numerous members of the College of Medicine team was an overwhelmingly positive experience; it only served to solidify my desire to join them. 

You'll be overseeing a major part of West Reading students' hands-on education. What aspects of the work most inspire or invigorate you?

Not to sound cliché, but I enjoy working with people and I have always had a particular interest in teaching and coaching. I’ve taught classes and coached youth sports over the past 20 years.

While managing the Step 2CS provided plenty of opportunities to coach a large team, I had to maintain neutrality with students since it was a high-stakes assessment, to the point where it was discouraged to even wish them good luck at the start of the exam. That could be difficult at times. The Step 2CS also had a tendency to focus more on patients (SPs) versus technology, so now I’ll have an opportunity to fully utilize the most modern simulation technology available.

In the short time I’ve been with Drexel, I’ve already had the rewarding experience of observing teams of students work through simulation scenarios at the Queen Lane campus, and I am looking forward to doing the same in West Reading.

What projects lie ahead of you before the campus opens this summer? What are your goals and plans?

Since starting on February 1, I’ve focused on learning as much as I can about Drexel and Tower Health, getting to know my team, and becoming familiar with all of the simulation technology utilized by the school.

Moving forward, I plan to assist in ensuring that the West Reading campus is fully operational in time to welcome its first class. This will include fitting out the SP and simulation facilities once construction is complete, bringing all the technology online, and building and training a pool of SPs. Thankfully there will be a whole team working on this, and I am confident we will be ready.

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