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Celebrating 20 Years of Stepping Stones: In Conversation with Lindsay Baker and Sarina Iannelli

This year, we’re celebrating 20 years of Stepping Stones, our foundational program! To wrap up our series of stories to commemorate the program’s milestones, this month’s article features our very own program team for Stepping Stones, Lindsay Baker and Sarina Iannelli.

Please note: in this article, we will be referring to Lindsay Baker as LB and Sarina Iannelli as SI.

Q: Could you introduce yourselves and tell us about your involvement and roles within the program?

LB: I’m the Associate Director of Curriculum Integration and Partnerships, and the Program Lead for the Stepping Stones Program. My involvement with the program actually began around 10 years ago, when I became a faculty member in the program. I taught workshops and facilitated Journal Club and a few years ago transitioned to the role of Program Lead. As the Program Lead, I have a high level overview of what topics and workshops we’re offering, and connect with others across the system regularly to ensure we’re meeting needs of our participants, and responding to shifts in our academic health science context. Sarina and I meet with our faculty regularly to support the alignment of journal clubs sessions and workshops, to ensure that our faculty feel supported in their roles.

SI: I’m the Education Coordinator, Curriculum and Programs, and have been involved in the program for around 2 years. Essentially, I book workshops, liaise with our faculty, support the workshops with tech and other needs, and keep track of all our participants to ensure that they’re supported throughout the program. I handle any questions, feedback, or comments from participants. I work with Lindsay and faculty to ensure the program runs smoothly.

Q: Given your time with the program, what are some shifts you’ve seen from when first began your involvement to the present state of Stepping Stones?

SI: Stepping Stones has always been very responsive to feedback from participants and faculty, making iterative improvements, so there have been quite a few shifts. Our curriculum is also reviewed frequently by us as the program team, which allows for us to adapt to the needs of our participants and of the health disciplines landscape.

LB: Yes, for instance, when I started, Stepping Stones wasn’t a cohort-based program [like it is now], participants could start anytime throughout the year, which didn’t facilitate connection amongst participants. It’s since moved to cohort model, where all participants start in September, building a community throughout their time in the program and beyond.
Another shift was participants’ taking part in Journal Club in their first year. This allows them to, again, build connections with each other, and have a foundational knowledge of the core concepts in health professions education, so they can choose which workshops align with their interests.

SI: Based on feedback, one change we implemented was expanding the workshop offerings to beyond the work day. We now have evening workshop times to accommodate as many participants as we’re able to. Additionally, we have aligned our Journal Club topics with workshop offerings to better integrate the two components of the program.

Q: Where does Stepping Stones fit within the broader landscape of health professions education and faculty development?

LB: It’s a foundational program and resource for faculty members at any point in their career. For new faculty, it introduces them to the field, gives them a baseline understanding of a variety of topics and a language of practice, and connects them to others with similar interests. For mid to late career faculty, we have people signing up who really want an understanding of the theory behind what they’re doing, to refresh on their knowledge or learn new topics that they might not have had access to in the earlier stages of their career. For example, we’re introducing a new workshop related to Generative AI which is an emerging topic – the health professions landscape is constantly changing and we stay on top of trends in response to that.

Q: What’s on the horizon for Stepping Stones?

LB: I’m proud to announce that we’ve recently hired a new program lead, Amanda Binns, as the new Education Development Lead, Clinical Teaching, at the CFD! She’s bringing her expertise and knowledge and taking on the program with Sarina moving forward.

SI: We’re very excited to have Amanda leading the program and looking forward to the future of Stepping Stones.

Learn more about the program here.

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