Dr. Kamalini Das is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Regions Hospital and also a long time faculty member within HealthPartners. In this blog post, she shares her experience and some best practices about being an educator and a physician.
What got you interested in medicine and OB-GYN?
Maternal mortality rates are high in developing countries like India. At the time that I was growing up, much of this was related to women not seeking care for deliveries due to the lack of women in medicine at that time. My mother was a pioneer in Indian medicine, one of the few practicing female physicians and my inspiration to pursue women’s health. I trained in a Christian Medical College in Vellore founded by an American missionary. It was the first all women medical school in India, a novelty at that time. Following my medical school education, I completed my OB/GYN residency at the same college before moving to the U.S. with my husband to complete a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Minnesota. Through my education, I discovered my love for delivering babies and helping moms through all aspects of their lives. Post-fellowship, I felt too compartmentalized in infertility and decided to practice OB-GYN as a generalist.
Since I completed my training I have always been involved in clinic, education, and research. I joined Ramsey Hospital and the VA medical center as the Chief of gynecology. I have been with Health Partners as the OB/GYN residency site director for the University of Minnesota program. For 22 years, my clinical work and role in education have kept me happy and fulfilled in my work life. I wouldn’t have chosen to have it any other way!
How has education changed throughout your journey from a learner to an educator?
In my early years as a student, I studied to pass exams and get good grades, not to become a good doctor or have a balanced life. As I progressed in my training, I realized what each learner got out of their education depended on what they put into it. The learners who took responsibility and ownership of their education used each opportunity to learn to the maximum, discussing, reading, researching each topic of interest were the learners that could form the critical building blocks to develop a solid foundation in medicine.
As an educator, I believe that learners should be accountable for their own education. No matter what method I use to teach, in the classroom or a clinical setting or the patient bedside, I encourage students to grab the opportunity for learning with both hands and heart and run with it. I give them bits of intriguing or challenging information to stimulate their brain to further research so they become mini masters of that topic. With the variety of educational resources available nowadays this leads to extremely interesting discussions and productive learning for all levels.
What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
As a learner, I stressed out about a lot of things and it negatively affected how much I learned from a certain encounter. I wasted a lot of time second guessing myself or stressing out about exams. None of this last minute cramming for the exams stayed with me long term. I wish I had spent more time being calm and researching topics that genuinely interested me. I know now that basics are so important. Researching, presenting, and discussing topics with a group of other well-researched scholars is a great way to learn.
What are some techniques you use as an educator?
Since I started practicing, I have changed the way I teach. It is important to help learners feel like an integral part of the team to keep them inquisitive and wanting to learn more. I can’t teach them everything. I can only set the seeds to make them go back and learn more on their own. If someone further researches or starts a discussion about a topic I taught, it means that I’ve made them curious, and that is success for me as an educator.
A typical day in my practice
A typical day at work for me is incredibly busy, filled with clinic, surgeries, research, and teaching. However, my tool for time management has always been my positive attitude. I know I can help many women in a given clinic or procedure. I am always grateful for the opportunity I have to work with them and humbled by the trust they have in me, telling me their deepest personal concerns. I help them come up with treatment choices that will work best for them in their uniqueness. I am confident in the knowledge and clinical skills I have gained over all my years of training, but I continue to see new things every day that excite me and make me a learner again. I stress less and can accomplish a lot of things because I enjoy it and am able to work synergistically with my mind and heart.
How do you manage time between students and your practice?
I work in two locations and I teach residents and medical students at both. I love teaching and never feel it holds me back but rather enhances my practice. I see residents and medical students as great assets and I treat them as part of the team, encouraging my support staff to introduce them in a positive light to my patients. My goal is to make them feel like they are productive members of the caregiving process.This makes patients feel that they get double the care when residents work with me rather than feeling like they are being experimented on. It is extremely unusual for my patients to refuse to see or talk to my residents or medical students. When patients feel cared for, learners are in an ideal environment to grow from their training. I have found that this helps students see how our practice can be fun, fulfilling and stimulating, while also providing the best care for patients.