Kindred Spirits

The Peter H. Arger, MD, Excellence in Medical Student Education Award honors an AIUM member whose outstanding contributions to the development of medical ultrasound education warrant special merit. At the 2016 AIUM Annual Convention, John Christian Fox, MD, RDMS, FACEP, FAAEM, FAIUM, was presented with this award. Here’s what he had to say about this honor and the future of medical ultrasound education.

J Christian Fox 1

What does it mean to you to be named the recipient of the Peter H. Arger Excellence in Medical Student Education Award winner?

After I did some research about Dr Arger and spoke with others who know him well, I began to realize that he and I are kindred spirits. Even though we are from different generations and different specialties, we are actually very much aligned. His work in the 1990s, while disruptive at the time, paved the way for multi-specialty performance of quality ultrasound examinations through practice accreditation. Furthermore, he initiated the Endowment for Education and Research (EER) which had a tremendous impact on ultrasound in medical education. From this fund, the AIUM was able to finance the highly successful 2nd Annual Dean’s Forum on Ultrasound in Medical Education held at UC Irvine in June 2015. Specifically, EER provided support to bring deans from more than 40 medical schools to my campus where we broke into small groups and developed a 4-year curriculum of ultrasound in medical education.

Why have you volunteered so much of your time to the AIUM?

When I was a fellow in emergency ultrasound in 2001, I first heard about the AIUM and flew down to Orlando to check out the annual meeting. We kicked off the emergency ultrasound section with a small group of people and from that early experience I was struck by how people from various specialties would do their best to check their politics at the door and get to work on what our combined passion was: Ultrasound. The point-of-care ultrasound revolution that ensued would never have happened in my opinion if it wasn’t for the multi-specialty collaboration that AIUM so vehemently catalyzes. While we may be facing local battles, once we put that AIUM badge around our necks, everyone is great at collaborating in the name of research and education rather than engaging in politics. Maybe that sounds a bit rosy for some reading this but it’s my honest assessment of what brings me back to the AIUM year after year! Where else can I go to see world-class multi-specialty ultrasound research? So many cool projects have come from ideas that were created during these sessions. Where else can I learn from international masters teaching me the nuances of the art of ultrasound?

What do you see as the biggest barrier(s) to having ultrasound integrated into the medical education curriculum?

It’s funny because these barriers are not static. Initially I saw a lot of people struggling to justify ultrasound’s role in the curriculum. It takes a few deep discussions, and even some hands-on scanning, to get the Deans to reframe their concept of ultrasound. Well, now that’s ancient history (like 2 years ago) and now we face other burdens. I get the sense the Deans are frothing now to not be the last school to incorporate this, and now they need to find the cash and prizes. They need the funding to support the curriculum administratively and they need to get machines and simulation all dialed in. That’s no simple task as you can imagine, but they are Deans and that’s their job – to fund initiatives that have the most impact on the curriculum.

Tell us a little about your TED talk experience.

Oh it was intense. Hardest thing I’ve ever done for sure. As much as I’m kind of a ham and love public speaking, this was very difficult for me. I had to really get out of my comfort zone and become a perfectionist. Lots of rules, which required weekly meetings with my two coaches. One was helping me perfect the content while the other was working on my performance. Every sentence has to land perfectly. Too much pressure to put on someone who is more of a big picture kinda person than a detail-oriented person. But all that being said, it stands as my proudest speaking moment.

Who is your mentor and why?

I’ve had so many mentors over the years it’s really hard to answer this question because I firmly believe that mentorship relationships should really form organically, and not be assigned or they lack authenticity. I’ll start with my residency director who later became my Chair, Mark Langdorf. He single-handedly taught me emergency medicine and then gave me the idea to do an ultrasound fellowship. I remember packing my moving truck, and wondering to myself exactly why I was moving from Laguna Beach to Chicago but his guidance proved critical. Then my fellowship director Mike Lambert is the guy who I really sync’d up with and spent a ton of time emulating his laid back approach to life and work. To this day, every time I’m around him, my blood pressure drops. But what he taught me was the importance of image quality and instilled in me a love, or an obsession really, for all things piezoelectric. The other mentor that really helped shape my approach to edutainment and social media is not one person but a duo. It’s the ultrasoundpodcast.com guys Mike Mallin and Matt Dawson. I really look up to them and what they’ve done for point-of-care and their tenacity to keep all their content (books and media) Free and Open Access Medical Education (FOAM).

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