Education Recognition

Surgical Education from Start to Finish

Education fellow Britta Han standing in front of the tranquility pond on the Washington University medical campus

Britta Han, MD, MSEd, has been passionate about education for a long time. Han earned her medical degree from University of Michigan, then matched at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis for general surgery residency. As a general surgery resident in her lab years, Han is an ACS-AEI Education Fellow at the Washington University Institute for Surgical Education (WISE). Before starting her medical training, though, Han taught in New York City public schools as part of Teach for America.

Han’s passion for education started when she was an undergraduate student at Brown University. She interned with a summer and afterschool program for middle school students in resource-limited school districts. This “students teaching students” program introduced Han to the power of teaching and mentoring. “It really felt like I could make an impact at an individual level,” Han says. “It was very rewarding to see my students thrive and I am still in touch with some of these students today.”

The experience inspired Han to immediately apply to join Teach for America in the summer before her senior year. She wanted to continue teaching in resource-limited school districts, where the impact would be most significant. Han was placed in a New York City public school, where she gained experience in curriculum design/re-design and collecting educational data.

Now Han brings that same passion to surgical education. As an ACS-AEI Education Fellow, at the WISE Center, she helps plan and execute general surgery skills labs as well as educational research projects. Her experience with curriculum design and data collection has translated well to her ongoing surgical education projects at the WISE Center.

The WISE Center is an American College of Surgeons (ACS) Accredited Education Institute (AEI) with a broad curriculum that includes use of endoscopy and laparoscopic simulators, training in surgical techniques and instrumentation, cadaver dissection, instruction in emergent procedures and preparation for performing specific surgical procedures. The WISE Center was one of the first surgical skills labs in the country established to serve a general surgery residency program. In addition to general surgery residents, the WISE Center provides training to practicing surgeons, physicians from other disciplines, residents from other disciplines, medical students, allied health professionals and nurses.

In 2018, the WISE Center established an ACS-AEI accredited education fellowship. This fellowship is designed to develop future leaders and scholars in surgical education, simulation and training. Residents have the opportunity to spend their lab years focused on simulation and education in a structured academic surgery program. The WISE Center at Washington University is one of a select few institutes in the United States accredited by the ACS-AEI.

“We are very excited to be offering this new program to our trainees,” says Michael Awad, MD, PhD, Director of WISE and fellowship director for the WISE Education Fellowship. “I have been so impressed by the number of residents interested in making surgical education a core part of their future careers. This fellowship is designed to equip them with the tools to become meaningful contributors to this field.”

As a fellow, Han participates in meetings with industry partners, gaining valuable experience initiating and maintaining partnerships important to surgical education. She also utilizes the simulation models and data from the WISE Center for research to provide the optimal education for surgery residents, medical students and other trainees.

“As a WISE fellow I am involved from start to finish,” says Han. “First, I partner with industry to support excellent education. Second, we bring that education to life by creating activities and simulations that benefit our learners. Finally, I use the research opportunities to provide data to support the work we do in simulation and demonstrate how it’s being effectively used for not just surgery residents but also trainees across the field of medicine.”

“Dr. Han has been a wonderful addition to our cohort of fellows,” Awad says. “She has already designed and delivered several new and engaging curricula that have received glowing reviews from our trainees! This was not an easy feat, particularly during the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Han continues innovative work to re-design general surgery curriculum at the School of Medicine. Simulation training at the WISE Center provides trainees valuable experience with the most advanced techniques and technology in the changing field of surgical education