Jordan Tozer, MS'07, M'12, H'15, F'16, calls himself “a VCU lifer,” having arrived on the MCV Campus as a medical student, continued as a resident and serving now as an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine.
“I stayed for the people and the quality of training,” he says. Now he’s among those doing the training. Doing it so well that in May he received a national award for his innovative work in teaching bedside ultrasound to students in the School of Medicine.
What started as a longitudinal curriculum introducing first- and second-year students to what was a relatively new field has mushroomed into an ultrasound rotation for third-year students and a very popular ultrasound elective course for fourth-years.
At a Society for Academic Emergency Medicine conference in Las Vegas last month, Tozer was honored with the Clerkship Directors in Emergency Medicine’s Innovation in Medical Education award. Nominated by Nathan Lewis, M’09, H’12, clerkship director and assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, who himself was honored as Clerkship Director of the Year in 2018. The two have known each other since Tozer was a medical student.
“Not only is he a well-respected, well-liked and highly praised bedside teacher in the emergency department, he has significantly advanced ultrasound education within our medical school,” Lewis wrote in his letter of recommendation. “He is often found in the ED, apart from his scheduled clinical shifts, with a group of residents and students seeking out interesting cases.”
Lewis remembers Tozer as “very smart and very capable” as a student, and as a professor, “He’s a hands-on kind of guy who doesn’t just stand in front of the class.” Instead he looks for ways to expand awareness of ultrasound technology and make it available to more physicians and patients.
“About half the medical schools in the country do some sort of ultrasound curriculum, but it usually stops with M1 and M2,” Tozer says. “Only a handful of schools have third year offerings or electives,” including VCU.
But with all VCU medical students learning about bedside ultrasound at the beginning of school, Tozer’s offerings for third- and fourth-year students are becoming more popular, even among students in specialties other than emergency medicine, such as pediatrics, obstetrics and surgery. The fourth-year elective, offered to only 24 students a year, has a long waiting list.
“The lightbulbs are switching on across all the specialties,” Tozer says, and he hopes to expand the teaching to the faculty at VCU too, so more students and patients can benefit.
Ultrasound testing is used for many purposes, but in the emergency department, bedside tests are efficient ways to diagnose conditions that have to be treated quickly. As technology progresses, the machines are small enough to be handheld and can be connected to a physician’s smartphone to send images. Equipment also is getting less expensive and more sophisticated, Tozer says.
Right now, transesophageal echocardiography, a test to diagnose the cause of cardiac arrest, is the latest big trend in ultrasound technology. “It’s super high-tech for the sickest patients,” Tozer says.
As a student at the University of North Carolina, the Charlotte native studied radiologic science and worked as an MRI and X-ray tech before going to medical school. “I’ve always been interested in imaging,” Tozer says, but “teaching is one of those things that comes along. You have some wisdom and something to give, and it feels really good to engage in those teaching relationships.”
Lewis says that Tozer’s a popular and respected educator in the School of Medicine, with students praising his flexibility and encouragement as a mentor, as well as his responsiveness to questions and willingness to spend time demonstrating technology during rounds. He’s also a hard worker behind the scenes, having recently completed a two-year post-graduate certificate from the School of Education in Teaching in Medical Education (TiME).
The reward, Tozer says, is seeing students who are “bright-eyed and scared” as they begin their rotations become “strong and competent physicians.”