Students examine Marfan syndrome on Convergence Day

Dr. Kamm and Dr. Dietz
Dr. Kristine Kamm, Director of Convergence, talks with Marfan syndrome expert and speaker Dr. Harry C. “Hal” Dietz of The Johns Hopkins University at UT Southwestern’s annual Convergence Day event.

By Lin Lofley

The fourth annual UT Southwestern Medical Center Convergence Day brought together first-year students from each of the three schools on campus to focus on Marfan syndrome, a potentially fatal genetic disease, and to hear from one of the most revered names in Marfan research.

Students from UT Southwestern Medical School, UT Southwestern School of Health Professions, and the Division of Basic Science in the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences participated in a case study of a patient with Marfan syndrome. They also attended a Science of Genetics Fair and heard a lecture delivered by Dr. Harry C. “Hal” Dietz of The Johns Hopkins University, whose research has provided a guideline for understanding the disorder.

“We were extremely lucky to have Dr. Dietz join us for the day,” said Dr. Helen Hobbs, Director of the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development, who served as Science-of-Medicine Theme Director for Convergence Day. “Not only did Dr. Dietz identify the first mutation that causes Marfan syndrome, but he also has elucidated the pathogenesis of the disease and developed new treatment strategies to prevent some of its devastating consequences.”

The students heard firsthand from patients battling the disorder, many of whom are active in the Dallas chapter of the National Marfan Foundation. Dr. Dietz spent time with those attendees in between talking with student groups.

“It was a great educational day,” Dr. Hobbs said.

Among the student-produced posters on topics such as “Regulation of Endothelial Cell Function and Mutant Adiponectin” and booths seeking volunteers for United to Serve was a poster related to Convergence Day itself.

“Schools across the nation are starting to confer on what they’re doing with these interprofessional education events,” said Dr. Kristine Kamm, Director of Convergence and Professor of Physiology, who collaborated on the poster with Dr. Angela Mihalic, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, and Kim Hoggatt Krumwiede, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Educational Technology in the School of Health Professions.

“Not everyone is doing what we’re doing, and we’re all interested to know what works in other places,” Dr. Kamm said.

One unique strategy of UT Southwestern is linking Convergence Day activities to the Science-of-Medicine theme. That approach yielded a Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation-funded Curriculum Module Development Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in 2012. Findings about the effectiveness of the UTSW model were published in the inaugural Interprofessional Education collection of MedEdPORTAL, a free peer-reviewed publication service of the AAMC. 

The Convergence Day poster, which detailed the findings, examined how organizational structure, calendar, and content came together in the event’s creation and concluded that developing an interprofessional curriculum “requires cycles of implementation, feedback, and adjustment,” and “strong institutional commitment and collaboration.”

The poster will be presented in June at the Collaborating Across Borders IV Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Dr. Hobbs holds the Eugene McDermott Distinguished Chair for the Study of Human Growth and Development, the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Chair in Developmental Biology, and the Dallas Heart Ball Chair in Cardiology Research.

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