Meet School of Medicine’s new assistant dean

As the new assistant dean for evaluation, assessment and research in Baylor’s School of Medicine, Dr. Joel Purkiss’ role will be to work with faculty, students, staff and leadership to evaluate the educational programs in the School to understand their effectiveness and identify what can be done for improvement.

Joel Purkiss

Joel Purkiss

“When it comes to program evaluation, our focus is not just on what students think about the programs, but also performance outcomes,” said Purkiss. “It’s always important and necessary to ask if students like the program. Tools including program evaluation surveys can help us understand student perspectives in this domain. But we also need to have quality assessments of their performance, through exams and observation of performance in the clinics. How well our students are progressing toward competence is clearly a reflection on our curriculum and programs.”

While this position is a newly established one at the College, Purkiss comes to Baylor with much experience in this area, having served the last 10 years as director of evaluation and assessment at the University of Michigan Medical School.

“I came to Baylor College of Medicine because people here are so clearly interested in promoting excellence in education,” said Purkiss. “It was very obvious to me that Drs. Klotman, Monroe and Christner see this as a priority.”

He noted that Baylor has done a good job of surveying students and gathering informative data, and his job will be to help enhance analysis and reporting in a way that facilitates efficient decision making. He will use program evaluation and assessment data to help faculty course directors, curriculum committees and leadership make undergraduate medical education improvements efficiently and confidently. He also will work to identify whether the curriculum overemphasizes certain areas that are successful and whether there should be changes to the curriculum in areas that are not as successful.

Purkiss emphasizes that it’s necessary that any improvement processes are collaborative among course directors, clerkship directors, deans, leadership, instructional faculty and the students. Student input is essential.

In terms of educational research, Purkiss’ work often has focused on the areas of evaluation and assessment. Analysis of appropriate metrics following instructional or curricular improvements can lead to scholarship of broad interest to medical educators.

“We want to see whether improvements are making things better in the curriculum and whether they are yielding better learning outcomes,” he said.

Purkiss said his favorite part of academic medicine is collaborating with others who are interested in educational improvement and innovation. He finds it extremely rewarding to help those working in medical education to analyze the effectiveness and impact of their efforts and to collaborate with them on presentations and publications to share their findings.

“I am extremely pleased to have been able to recruit Dr. Purkiss to join our team,” said Dr. Jennifer Christner, dean of the School of Medicine at Baylor. “His arrival signals our being able to add a level of complexity and finesse to all that we do in evaluation and assessment. I also look forward to joining with him to promote and support medical education scholarship, such as pursuing grant funding and presenting our innovative education endeavors in both the national and international medical education arena.”