Less than a decade ago, Einstein’s Education Center was a state-of- the-art technology hub for learning about everything from anatomy to zoonoses. But 10 years is a lifetime when it comes to today’s increasingly wireless teaching spaces.
Low ceilings and cement columns were causing audio and connectivity challenges. Outdated equipment made it harder to project information from newer computers onto large screens. And smartphones, tablets, and laptops were straining the Wi-Fi system. The Education Center needed a reboot.
Fortunately, Einstein alumnus John Braver, M.D. ’70, had been thinking for a while of making a gift to his alma mater, to express his gratitude to the College of Medicine. “I got a terrific education and a career for life,” he says.
Dr. Braver had retired in 2016 as chief of gastrointestinal radiology and co-director of abdominal imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He had not, however, retired from his longtime dedication to medical students. A beloved and skilled educator, he was voted Brigham’s Teacher of the Year in 1982 and again in 2010. Even after retiring, he still teaches Brigham residents once or twice a week.
In June 2019, Dr. Braver attended a brunch for Boston-area Einstein alumni hosted by Janina Galler, M.D. ’72, and Burton Rabinowitz, M.D. ’72. There he met fellow alumnus Gordon F. Tomaselli, M.D. ’82, Einstein’s Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean, who shared campus updates and answered questions about admissions, student life, residency matching statistics, and other details. “We talked about supporting students, and I left impressed by the dean’s enthusiasm and vision,” Dr. Braver says.
That meetup inspired Dr. Braver to make a generous donation at the end of 2019 to benefit medical students and to support education. “I trusted Einstein’s leaders to know how my contribution could best be used to help students learn and engage most effectively,” Dr. Braver says.
Dr. Braver’s gift came at a crucial time. Costs for repairing and replacing Education Center equipment were running as high as $60,000 per year. Plus, the surge in digital communication caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was stressing the aging educational facility.
“The pandemic meant that our third-years couldn’t see patients in the hospital, so we created a nine-week virtual course with lessons from the clerkship,” says Joshua Nosanchuk, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education. Also, all first- and second-year lectures were being delivered virtually. Dependable digital communication with Montefiore and beyond was more essential than ever.
Dr. Braver’s donation allowed work on massive technology upgrades to begin quickly. The vastly improved Education Center now offers a new Wi-Fi system, a refined broadcast frequency to prevent outside interference, and improved microphone audio that uses Bose technology. Small tables have replaced large ones to accommodate more test-takers and breakout sessions. New glass boards and 12 large monitors allow students to study and collaborate actively while maintaining safe social distancing.
“We’ve made the infrastructure more functional—more plug-and-play,” says Dr. Nosanchuk, who has led the renovation effort with Shailesh Shenoy, assistant dean for information technology at Einstein. “It’s a key move in innovating medical education at Einstein.”
Over the course of his medical career, Dr. Braver has seen firsthand how innovation has revolutionized medicine. “Surgeons operate with robots now. Meetings and Grand Rounds—and whole curriculums—are virtual,” Dr. Braver says. “Everything is heading in that direction, and this pandemic has tremendously accelerated that trajectory.”
He points to one constant in the midst of medicine’s dynamic changes over the decades: the quality of an Einstein education. “I was at Einstein before the digital age, and I was blessed with excellent teachers,” Dr. Braver says. “Today’s Einstein students have that same caliber of educators and teaching platforms, plus high-tech computer programs and devices that Dean Tomaselli and Dr. Nosanchuk have put in place. I’m glad that my contribution has made an impact on Einstein and its role in driving cutting-edge education.”