Inside Perspective: Jennifer Loh, MD

A Good Beginning Makes a Good End

This is a series of first-person pieces from the Permanente physicians on the ground floor of creating the new Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine.

By Jennifer Loh, MD

Who am I?

Jennifer Loh, MD

I would describe myself as a busy and very fulfilled physician, wife, and mom, who has been privileged to work for Hawaii Permanente Medical Group (HPMG) since 2008. My primary roles are chief of Endocrinology, chairman of the HPMG Board of Directors, and assistant associate medical director of Medical Education.

I enjoy wearing many different hats because it is endlessly challenging and invigorating. One of the things that I like best about HPMG is that I have never found myself feeling stagnant in my own career. I have always been given ample opportunities to pursue many paths, to work with my colleagues in new ways, and to pursue my passions, and for this, I am very grateful.

I grew up in Honolulu, and the gentle climate and my wonderful schooling cultivated in me both a love of learning, people and community, and of the beautiful outdoors. As a child, I was both a complete bookworm who loved nothing more than to read books, observe, and analyze. On the other hand, I also was an athlete who swam and ran cross country and track.

As I was picking a specialty, I found I was drawn to Endocrinology because there is such a strong component of thinking and education, as well as lifestyle and wellness to my field. There is nothing I find more inspiring than working together with patients to live a healthier, happier, and more positive life. It is how I strive to live my life daily and this carries over and is a very meaningful part of my practice.

I also was always very lucky to have dedicated teachers and mentors throughout my life, and this is what drew me to the field of education. In medical school and in training, my strongest role models were physicians who were deep thinkers with open minds, who were so excited to teach, inspire, and support.

Physicians in training, whether it is in medical school, residency, or fellowship, are in a uniquely stressful and vulnerable time in their lives, and I believe there is much we can do to promote a culture of wellness to help us grow a strong, thoughtful, and resilient next generation of physicians. To me, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to help students grow and develop their sense of personal and professional identity, confidence, and maturity.

Finally, I also define myself as a wife to an extremely supportive and kind husband. I have two little girls who fill my heart with joy every day and inspire me to be a better person and contribute to making the world a better place.

What am I doing for the School of Medicine?

I joined the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine in the Spring 2016 as a member of the Curriculum Committee and Executive Curriculum Committee.

Currently I am focusing on building the Phase 1 and 2 curriculum, which includes the first experiences that the students will have when they start at our medical school. Many of us remember the beginning of our own medical education as moving into our new cities and apartments and starting right into large group lectures and exams for the next two years. Our students will have a completely different introduction to medical school!

One very interesting piece of our curriculum we are working on are “selectives.” These will be experiential, selective opportunities students will be able to choose from, starting from the beginning of medical school.

There is a well known proverb that says “A good beginning makes a good end.” With that in mind, we have built a six-week long early immersion experience that will help shape the course of their medical school experience, and hopefully influence their entire medical career. The early immersion experience will not only give them the skills that they need to be a successful clinician in the exam room, but also a successful leader, team player, innovator, and community and global physician.

A portion of the early immersion experience will be spent learning core clinical skills such as history taking, physical exam skills, communication, patient presentation, and clinical reasoning. Another portion will be spent outside of the school walls – our students will be able to experience first responder training, which will teach them initial engagement skills, and also give them insight into the communities surrounding the school.

In early immersion, students will learn about practice improvement, safety culture, and various ways to improve their practices and communities. Additionally, they will undergo various self-discovery assessments that will give them ideas of their own personality, leadership and team-based styles. Finally, a big component of the early immersion experience is simply about them having the space and time to get to know each other as a class and to have time to reflect on the experience and consolidate their learning.

How’s it going?

The experience so far has been transformative and has been one of both great contribution as well as great personal growth. When I initially became involved, I knew I would be bringing my expertise as a clinician educator to the group, but I didn’t expect to receive so much mentorship, education, and inspiration in return! It has been amazing to be surrounded by people as knowledgeable, passionate, and innovative as our team.

As a curriculum committee, we were first given the space and time to think big and very broadly about the kind of school we wanted to build. Now we are in the process of figuring out how all the different pieces of what we envision will fit together, almost like a complex jigsaw puzzle.

While helping to develop the curriculum, Dr. Loh finds she is gaining much in mentorship, education and inspiration.

One very interesting piece of our curriculum we are working on are “selectives.” These will be experiential, selective opportunities students will be able to choose from, starting from the beginning of medical school.

Starting the first year, students will be able to designate an area of focus and build upon many of these selectives that they started in the first year. The selectives will cover many diverse areas, such as community health, medical or surgical subspecialties, health systems science, wellness, research, bioethics, leadership, health care administration, and technology. Through these experiences, students will have opportunities to broaden their exposure to different areas of medicine, as well as deepen their understanding within their area of focus. It is very exciting that our students will be able to individualize their experience throughout medical school and will have ample opportunities to explore and do a deep dive into their areas of interest.

As we continue on our journey together building the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, all of our eyes are on August 2019. With each portion of the medical school that we build, we envision how the students will very tangibly experience everything that we have created. We cannot wait for our students to start, so they can experience the dreams, passion, and purpose that we have thoughtfully placed in each area of the school, and the hopes we have for our next generation of physicians.

Visit Dr. Jennifer Loh’s physician page.