Central Region House Staff Fellow Teacher of the Year Award
Kenneth Snell, MD, critical care chief fellow, said that his medical specialty demands its practitioners be flexible, adaptable and empathetic. He said he learned all of these things growing up in the foster care system. “My hometown could be the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he said. “When you grow up in a situation where you are shuffled from family to family, you learn to adapt. I learned to be flexible and adapt to an ever-changing environment. I can’t tell you how important this is to critical care and, now, to pandemics. The ability to accept rapid change is really key. On another note, adversity makes you personable and empathetic. Every patient in an ICU is facing adversity. My experience with adversity helps me connect and help patients through their current horrible one,” he said.
Dr. Snell’s ability to empathize also makes him a dedicated and patient teacher. “Any chief resident would say the same thing: Our passion is education.” Dr. Snell said that, at Geisinger, teaching in critical care is challenging because the subject is so diverse. “Geisinger has several ICU units – med/surg, trauma, cardiac. And we have a diverse group of learners, from medical students to a variety of residents. My job is to find a way to teach this diverse learning population,” he said.
Together with critical care program director, Frank Lodeserto, MD, Dr. Snell devised an innovative way to avoid emphasizing learning by PowerPoint. “We came up with innovative idea that targets the many ways people learn. Most of us learn by doing, so – while there are lectures – we also involve all different aspects of learning.”
Dr. Snell takes the time to individualize learning for each specific student. “Each time I sit down with a new group of learners, I do an assessment where I ask, ‘What do you want to learn?’ I swear by that. When someone is learning what they are passionate about, they will be intent. They will be energized,” he said. Although time-consuming, Dr. Snell said he also creates individual educational portfolios for each of his learners, be they residents or medical students. “Every week, we go back and see what we achieved. At the beginning, a learner usually lists just a few things. It’s amazing, every week how we add to that list. By the time the month is over, their portfolio is two or three pages long. It’s rewarding to see where their passion is.”
Dr. Snell was named Central Region House Staff Fellow Teacher of the Year after voting by his peers, who determined he is the best of the best in:
- Willingness to teach
- Effective use of constructive criticism
- Creative and innovative ways of implementing teaching strategies
- Differentiating instruction for each individual member that they work with
- Approachability for feedback and support
- Supports all areas of academic growth
- Exhibits care and compassion with patients