Medical School Associate Dean talks individual purpose in education, preparing future leaders

Monday, February 12, 2018 - 10:06pm

Rajesh Mangrulkar, Associate Dean for Medical Student Education, discusses active listening and the importance of emphasizing meaning and purpose in education at the League Monday.

Rajesh Mangrulkar, Associate Dean for Medical Student Education, discusses active listening and the importance of emphasizing meaning and purpose in education at the League Monday. Buy this photo
Matt Vailliencourt/Daily

The LSA Student Honor Council hosted “Rediscovering Your ‘Why?,’” a talk led by Rajesh Mangrulkar, associate dean for medical student education at the University of Michigan’s Medical School, focused on the idea of purpose for University students on Monday evening.

Mangrulkar specifically discussed the discovery of passion through academia, how education responds to changing environments and individual goals and desires. About 50 people gathered in the Vandenberg Room of the Michigan League for the presentation.

The talk was a part of the Honor Council’s annual speaker event focusing on the mechanisms behind education. LSA senior Khyati Somayaji, president of the Honor Council, said the event looks at the larger picture of academic honesty – past the immediate impact on classes and grades.

“We started last year progressing more towards uncovering what the underground basis of academia really is,” Somayaji said. “Not focusing on the grades and the tangible aspects of ‘do I know or do I not,’ more of focusing on the overall purpose … and realizing the grander scheme of the trajectory of where we are going in our careers and the rest of our university education.”

Mangrulkar began with a confession, stating he is currently on a journey and is struggling with his path. He then posited some identity questions he asked himself recently, such as his involvement in his work and his values when in the presence of others.

“The fundamental question I am now starting to ask myself is as follows: Am I bringing my full self to my work, or am I putting on a role when I am at work?” Mangrulkar said. “Who am I when I am with others? … How do I connect that to what I say and what I do on a regular basis?”

Audience members were asked to take part in a dialogue activity to explain their passions to other individuals. Afterwards, Mangrulkar asked individuals to raise their hands if they found this difficult. Many attendees found articulating their passions challenging, leading Mangrulkar to touch on how passion is central to an educational path. Afterwards, he emphasized many students feel as if their passions lie outside of their academic trajectory.

“The fundamental question I keep asking is: How do we bring what’s outside inside?” he said.

The talk was separated into three parts focused on purpose in education: why, change and individual journeys.

The first portion of the presentation focused on passion in education. Mangrulkar made a point to distinguish between knowledge and skill, the meaning and purpose of academia meaning and purpose. He discussed how most education programs talk about how to do things, but forget to instill a sense of purpose and passion in their student — essentially, their “why.”

The second portion of the presentation focused on change in professional atmospheres and how passion-based education best prepares future leaders. Mangrulkar spoke about how experience and failure are essential to preparing for change in a professional atmosphere in the future. He also discussed how these aspects are being implemented into a new medical education curriculum in the Medical School, which focuses on experience and is experimenting with new academic spheres to promote innovation and passionate discovery.

“One of the things we have actually adopted in the Medical School is to say that we are going to transform our educational program by making so much more of it be experiential, and to allow for opportunities for students to try things out and potentially fail and learn from it,” he said.

Mangrulkar began the third and final portion of the talk with a question: “Are you surviving or thriving?”

He then gave students tips on how to truly thrive in their field and find their passion in education, citing time for reflection, understanding themselves and their core values, and connecting with others in a broad, diverse community.

LSA junior Grace Morris discussed her own attempt to find a purpose on her educational path and said her pre-med curriculum often focuses a lot of the academic pressures of education instead of supporting efforts to find her passion in her career.

“I thought the topic of rediscovering your why would be really important to me,” Morris said. “Pre-med requirements are incredibly difficult and often heavily information focused, so it can be really easy to forget who I am and refocus and really do some heavy thinking about why I want to get into the field I want to get to.”

Mangrulkar revisited his own questions of identity and said the merging of personal qualities with education will support future generations.

“What I’m searching for is congruence between who I am, what I say, and what I do as coming together and being completely consistent with how I express myself,” he said. “I think we might be all on this shared journey to congruence. I honestly think this is the core of education. If this isn’t education, and if we focus purely on the what, we’re not going to be preparing you to be full global citizens of this world that is ever changing.”