Global Influence

Elizabeth Armstrong recognized for innovation in medical education

Medical educators at the Harvard Macy Institute's Systems Approach to Assessment in Health Professions Education course in 2014.

Elizabeth Armstrong, director of educational programs at HMS, joined an elite group as she received the Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in November.

“The Flexner is the most prestigious award in medical education, and Liz is the embodiment of all that it represents, as a teacher, innovator, educator and mentor,” said David Roberts, HMS dean for external education.

An expert in curricular design and instruction, Armstrong was instrumental in the design and implementation of the New Pathway curriculum for HMS, a problem-based learning model implemented in the mid-1980s. She is also the founder and director of the Harvard Macy Institute, which provides innovative professional development courses for health care professionals, educators and leaders.

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“I thought we needed a forum where medical educators could engage in discussions, problem solve, challenge each other and nurture innovations,” said Armstrong.

Since 1994, the Harvard Macy Institute has educated nearly 6,000 medical education scholars from 800 institutions all over the world. Participants in Harvard Macy Institute courses not only gain knowledge and skills in how to teach medicine but also come together to design innovative solutions for the way students are educated at their home institutions.

“Part of the HMS mission is to have global impact, and Liz Armstrong is a shining example of what it means to carry out the medical education mission of the School.” —Edward Hundert.

Armstrong, who is also an HMS professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, part-time, has partnered with a number of institutions to help advance medical education in Australia, China, Germany, India, Japan, Singapore, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, among others.

Elizabeth Armstrong (left) talks with Harvard Macy Institute course participants.
Elizabeth Armstrong (left) talks with Harvard Macy Institute course participants.

"The thousands of scholars who have been through Harvard Macy Institute programs have been innovators in medical education—just think of the ripple effect on the likely millions of patients who have been cared for by the hundreds of thousands of students, residents and trainees who have benefited from the educational programs Harvard Macy Institute alumni have developed,” said Edward Hundert, HMS dean for medical education.

“Part of the HMS mission is to have global impact, and Liz Armstrong is a shining example of what it means to carry out the medical education mission of the School,” added Hundert.

Armstrong has influenced and shaped medical education well beyond HMS by encouraging the use of digital platforms and popularizing learner-centered teaching methods in medicine, such as case-study methodology, problem-based learning and interprofessional education models.

S. Jean Emans, the HMS Mary Ellen Avery Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Office of Faculty Development at Boston Children’s Hospital, said in a statement that Armstrong is the “‘pied piper’ of innovation in medical education because she pioneered these models long before they were ‘in vogue.’”

Armstrong received a $10,000 prize and the Flexner Medal at the AAMC annual meeting. She donated the prize money to the Harvard Macy Institute to establish a scholarship fund for those who wish to take courses but do not have the financial resources to pay for them.

“All of HMS is proud and appreciative of Liz Armstrong’s extraordinary work across her career both at HMS and with the Harvard Macy Institute,” said Roberts.

Fidencio Saldaña, HMS dean for students since July 2016, was also recognized at the AAMC annual meeting. He received the 2016 Careers in Medicine Excellence in Medical Student Career Advising Individual Advisor Award and a crystal award.

Saldaña, who is also HMS assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was recognized for his accomplishments and commitment as a dedicated career advisor who helps students succeed in fulfilling their career goals.

“How wonderful to have our new dean for students already recognized as a national leader in advising and mentoring medical students,” said Hundert.