Dennis Novack, MD, professor of medicine and associate dean for medical education, will be honored by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) for his outstanding contributions to academic medicine. Novack will receive the Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award, which will be presented November 5, during the association's annual meeting in Denver.
In selecting Novack for the honor, the AAMC noted that Novack's work in physician-patient communications has been said to have "done more to change the way academic medicine teaches and assesses these skills than any single individual in recent history."
Novack created and directs the Physician and Patient course at Drexel University College of Medicine, which aims to provide first-year medical students with the information needed to understand the biopsychosocial model; acquire communication skills; enhance understanding of how one's own attitudes, feelings, biases, and personal histories affect communication with patients and colleagues; and deepen students' sense of professionalism. He also directs and teaches in the doctoring curriculum for Drexel internal medicine residents.
"I try to teach my students and residents to ask 'why is this patient ill now?' The answer is often rooted in the patient's social context, behaviors, and personality," said Novack. "If we can diagnose the disease and understand the many factors comprising a patient's experience of illness, we can not only cure our patients, but help them heal as well."
Novack has made pivotal contributions to the development of a Web-based clinical skills curriculum, recently complemented with Web-based assessment. Working with the American Academy on Communications in Healthcare, Novack led the creation of doc.com, which uses text and annotated videos to demonstrate a wide range of communication skills. Tailored to student developmental levels, doc.com materials address such topics as tobacco interventions and assessing substance abuse disorders. Doc.com also provides educators with an effective way to teach a complex set of skills to trainees, and has been embraced as a standard, used at over 30 medical schools nationwide.
The power of doc.com is leveraged by WebOSCE, another program Novack helped develop. Through WebOSCE, students interview standardized patients through a Web-based videoconference and receive feedback from the patient-actor, who uses checklists and materials from doc.com to offer constructive criticism. As needed, students are directed to remediation assignments on doc.com, creating a technology-enhanced learning circle that reinforces clinical content.
When he is not making the rounds with students, Novack is making music with them. For the last 18 years, his rock and roll band has performed at, and he has served as faculty advisor for, the Pediatric AIDS Benefit Concert that brings together the talents of Drexel University College of Medicine students and faculty each year to raise money for the St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. Throughout, he has remained active in clinical practice in general internal medicine.