September 05, 2019

Jennifer Weizer, MD: Doing better

Path of Excellence exposes students to quality and safety improvements in complex systems

Dr. Weizer teaching a student at University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center

Jennifer Weizer, M.D. is a professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at U-M’s Kellogg Eye Center. She is one of several Michigan Medicine faculty who lead our Paths of Excellence, co-curricular opportunities that offer med students a deeper dive into eight different specialized areas of health care. Approximately 80-90% of our M1 students join a Path of Excellence each year. Dr. Weizer recently became the director of the Patient Safety/Quality Improvement/Complex Systems Path of Excellence after serving as co-director since its launch in 2016. Here, she answers nine questions about her Path and how med students can benefit from joining one that interests them. 

How did you get started with the Patient Safety/Quality Improvement/Complex Systems Path of Excellence?

I began as co-director of this Path of Excellence three years ago, when I had the opportunity to work with my mentor Jake Seagull to come up with and develop this Path from scratch. We knew there was a need to bring the principles of safety and quality in health care to the next generation of physicians, and we were excited to take on this exciting project.

What is your role as director of the PS/QI/CS Path?

I am responsible for teaching the principles of safety and quality in health care to Michigan Medicine’s medical students, so I organize classes, teach material, lead students in active participatory exercises, bring in guest speakers who are leaders in this field, and serve as a mentor and career advisor for students in my Path.

What appealed to you in taking on this role?

I was excited to develop this teaching endeavor from the get-go. I’m happy to work with medical students, who are so enthusiastic about getting experience in real-world medicine. And when I see a spark in a student’s eye when she or he realizes that one can make a personal difference to make health care safer and better for our patients, I feel so rewarded.

How does your background in ophthalmology and safety inform the direction of this Path?

I have been the faculty quality improvement director for Michigan Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology since 2008. I also took on the safety directorship for my department in 2017. So since I work with quality and safety in my daily work, I have a lot of real-world experience to share with my students. I also know plenty of colleagues across our institution who work in quality and safety, and having so many people available here to serve as mentors and sources of knowledge and guidance for my students is an invaluable resource.

Why does it make sense to include Patient Safety/Quality Improvement/Complex Systems as a Path of Excellence option?

If you are a student who wants to make a difference in the quality of care that your patients receive, this would be a wonderful Path to join. You’ll be able to use your real-life experience as you train in medicine to spot systems that can be improved. You’ll learn how to avoid medical errors and impart this knowledge to your future colleagues in order to make your patients safer and healthier.

What students will find a good fit in your Path?

Anyone who wants to make medicine safer, more reliable, more efficient, and better for large or small groups of patients would fit in well to this Path. We have students who come with no past experience in this area and quickly learn what they need to in order to make a difference as well as students who have worked in this type of area before, either in or outside of medicine. I’m happy to welcome anyone who comes with enthusiasm and an open mind!

What is your mission when it comes to shaping future physician leaders?

Medical institutions, insurance providers and our patients are demanding higher standards in quality of care and avoidance of medical errors. Physicians across this country are already required to maintain their certification by being involved to some degree in quality improvement. In the future, all physicians, not only physician leaders, will need to know how to address safety and quality. And physician leaders in particular will definitely have these issues in the forefront of how they shape all aspects of medicine nationally and internationally.

What do you like to do outside of the medical school?

Spend time with my family, exercise, play music, cook, read, and sleep!

What is your advice to a student who is considering whether or not to pursue a Path of Excellence?

Pursuing a Path of Excellence is a very smart choice because you’ll get to actively explore an area of medicine that may not be as well represented in the core curriculum. You’ll have the extra support and resources from your Path to help you complete your required Capstone for Impact project. And best of all, your Path will connect you with like-minded classmates and colleagues whom you’ll enjoy getting to know, and whose connections can last well beyond your medical school years as you forge your future career. We hope you’ll join us!