University of Toronto professor Brian Hodges has been awarded the prestigious 2016 Karolinska Institutet Prize for Research in Medical Education. 

Hodges, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, is also executive vice president, Education at the University Health Network and the Michener Institute for Education at UHN. He will receive the award and a prize amount of €50,000 at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 13.

The prize is awarded for outstanding research in medical education, to recognise and stimulate high-quality research in the field and to promote long-term improvements of educational practices in medical training.

Hodges said he was taken aback by news of the Karolinska Institutet Prize.“It’s a wonderful honour to be recognised for this prominent prize. As I have a strong belief in philanthropy, I will donate most of the prize money to continue to further support research in the medical education field.”

Hodges’ research has led to changes in educational practice, both scientific and practical, in the training of health professionals around the world. As an example, simulations and assessment of patients’ mental health and students’ communication skills are now included in medical examinations in many countries.

“This year’s prize winner was an easy choice, as Professor Hodges’ research is of such outstanding significance, quality and originality,” said Sari Ponzer, Chair of the Prize Committee. “It has led to changes in practice and has had an impact on medical education. Professor Hodges has embraced both quantitative and best-practice qualitative methodologies. The outcomes of the research are well recognised as a substantial contribution to the medical education literature.”

Since the early 1990s, Hodges has advocated a closer examination of the role that medical education plays in society. His research focuses on the nature of competence, how it has been constructed in different historical periods, across different countries and cultures, and how it is assessed using a range of assessment tools and systems. He has successfully advocated including simulations and assessment of mental health and communication skills in examinations for medical students and residents and for other health professionals. This is now standard practice in his native Canada and many other countries.

.“When I was in medical school, all exams were written or oral; there were few simulations as part of the examination process. Today, the use of simulated patients is widespread internationally, and has changed the way that medical students are assessed. In a perfect world, health professionals would go back every year of their career to engage in challenging simulations to test their clinical and communication skills. That’s what I’m currently working on,” said Hodges.

“Our research team was the first in the world to experiment with the validity of complex communication and mental health simulations. I’m proud that these types of simulations are now part of the medical examination process, in combination with physical assessment. This is important, as we often need to deal with patients or family members who are anxious or emotionally distressed in a hospital environment. It is important to have the chance to practice in a safe environment before, for example, dealing with relatives of a dying patient or a patient who is angry or confused. I’m glad there is more focus on these types of teaching and assessment these days.”