background image
After her appointment to the faculty, she spent three
decades at Mayo Medical School, rising to the rank of pro-
fessor both of epidemiology and of medicine. She cared for
patients, taught, and mentored, while pursuing her research
and serving in increasingly senior positions. She held the
William J. and Charles H. Mayo Professorship, and her lead-
ership roles included chair of the Department of Health Sci-
ences Research and a member of the Mayo Clinic Executive
Board. Her career at Mayo Medical School culminated with
her appointment, in 2012, as dean.
When asked about her two groundbreaking appointments,
Dr. Gabriel says, "I've spent my career in the minority,"
adding that only 12 percent of the deans of American medical
schools are women. Does that put her in the spotlight? "No--
it's more like being under a microscope. But I'm used to it;
there are no surprises," she says.
"The most important thing for women professionals is to
realize that it's a missed opportunity if they don't make the
time to serve as a role model for the women coming along
behind them," she adds. And she hopes, as dean at Robert
Wood Johnson Medical School, to have that opportunity.
Inseparable Visions for the American
Health System and Medical Education
n addition to epidemiology, medical education has always
been Dr. Gabriel's passion. "It stems from my interest in the
transformation of the American health care system. To do that,
we must change the way we educate future physicians," she says.
"I wanted to play a role in changing the health care system, by
undertaking a real-world experience." Robert Wood Johnson
Medical School seemed to provide that opportunity: it is in the
Northeast, in the heart of one of the nation's most diverse states.
The recent integration with Rutgers, The State University of New
Jersey, which has many professional schools, and the affiliations
within the newly established Rutgers Biomedical and Health
Sciences created a climate of change and promise.
Dr. Gabriel loves finding creative ways to address and solve
problems. "It is especially exciting to come in on the ground
floor and be part of the transformation of the medical school.
If the job description required keeping everything as is, I
probably wouldn't have come," she says.
"Transformation" is a word that Dr. Gabriel uses frequently
and with conviction. She strongly believes that only by trans-
forming medical education can the nation successfully over-
haul its health care system. In New Jersey, she sees the poten-
tial for a statewide, integrated system, with health-related
schools, hospitals, and state government working together, all
with a shared focus on community and patient health.
Not only would this statewide system be organizationally inte-
grated, but, at both the individual and institutional levels, health
care would be cross-disciplinary, without professional silos, insti-
tutional barriers, and bureaucratic obstacles. At this point, Dr.
Gabriel's visions for health care and medical education become
inseparable. Transformation of medical school curricula is essen-
tial, she believes, if today's students are to become effective
providers in the nation's fast-changing health care system.
Interdisciplinary training is key. "If medical students learn as
a team, they are much more likely to be effective team members
as practicing physicians," she says, observing that by breaking
from the traditional pyramidal model, with the physician at the
top, students will appreciate the value that each discipline
brings to providing optimum care to the patient and, by exten-
sion, to the community. "This is the direction we want to go as
we innovate our curriculum," she adds.
There is precedent: the comprehensive redesign, implemen-
tation, and dissemination of a new undergraduate curriculum
at Mayo Medical School, led by Dr. Gabriel, follows this edu-
cational model. The revised curriculum is designed to prepare
future physicians to achieve a triple aim: providing better care,
making people and communities healthier, and offering more
affordable care in the rapidly shifting health care arena.
Building on Strengths: Multidisciplinary
Learning and Community Service
arly in her first month as dean, Dr. Gabriel met with the
medical school's education team to discuss the curricu-
lum, present and future. She found proven academic strengths
that promise to be the foundation of a curriculum that builds
on the school's strengths and answers its needs.
Interdisciplinary training is intrinsic to the Robert Wood
Johnson Medical School curriculum. In responses to the
Association of American Medical Colleges Graduation
Questionnaire, the Class of 2015 reported nearly 100 percent
participation in curricular activities where the students
learned alongside peers from other health professions.
To expand on multidisciplinary training, Dr. Gabriel and a
team of the medical school's senior educators submitted a pro-
posal to the American Medical Association (AMA) that would
support embedding students in the existing teams of the Robert
Wood Johnson Medical Group's Home Visit Service. As a
result, the medical school has been selected to join the AMA
Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium to help
advance the AMA's innovative work aimed at transforming
undergraduate medical education to better align with health
care delivery in a changing environment. "The patient's home
is a novel learning environment, a care setting that most stu-
6 Robert WoodJohnson