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Published in CenterView on July 15, 2013
From left, Brea Cole, Dr. Elizabeth Franklin and Bo Lewis
From left, Brea Cole, Dr. Elizabeth Franklin and Bo Lewis

New CHPE director seeks continuing education expansion into cyberspace

By Gary Pettus

Dr. Elizabeth Franklin doesn’t teach medical students, nor does she treat patients.

But in her new role at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, she will be able to make a crucial impact on health care in a state where residents struggle with obesity, hypertension, diabetes and more.

As director of the Division of Academic Affairs’ Continuing Health Professional Education (CHPE) Program, Franklin is poised to expand the reach of post-graduate, non-academic training by embracing cyberspace, as well as office space.

“We’re looking for what we call professional gaps – the need,” said Franklin, whose doctorate is in higher education leadership. “And we want to ensure that it’s quality instruction.”

As for office space, that includes the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center – specifically, the conference center with its 500-seat auditorium and four smaller conference rooms.

More and more, continuing education events will take place there, such as EKG and sonogram classes, reducing the need for UMMC practitioners to go off-campus for training, said Bo Lewis, coordinator of the center. The center also is available for conferences and seminars that draw participants from around the country and overseas.

As for cyberspace: Even before Franklin officially came to CHPE, the program introduced online registration and payment in March.

Also, CHPE now offers course transcripts and certificates through its new learning and event-management software, CVent, which allows participants to register through a user portal via a CHPE website link. And for the first time, continuing education classes themselves are available online, Franklin said, referring to the Prescribing Medication Series introduced on HealthStream (free for UMMC providers) and in CVent (for non-UMMC providers).

“We are also hoping to provide continuing ed to physicians and advanced practice nurses in rural areas through Telehealth,” she said, referring to the long-distance, interactive communication system.

Continuing ed instruction also can be delivered via audio file, “so that doctors can just listen in their cars, for example, and receive CE credit after taking an assessment,” Franklin said.

These changes challenge a nearly 40-year-old habit.

“Until March of this year, all continuing education was done by paper,” Franklin said. “That had not changed since 1974, when CE came to UMMC.”

This new direction has tested some CE employees, said Brea Cole, program administrator for e-learning.

“At first, they didn’t want to give up that paper,” she said. “When I first came here, we were using scanned bubble sheets. Comments from course participants had to be typed into the system.”

The continuing education staff has done “outstanding work” for years, said Dr. Mitzi Norris, director of accreditation.

“Now we have a new electronic platform and are able to do the distance learning we weren’t able to do before,” she said. “Elizabeth has the vision that will launch the technology throughout the state. We believe she has the perfect blend of skills.”

A veteran educator of 27 years, Franklin had taught Spanish at Holmes Community College in Ridgeland and at Jackson Prep, where she was chair of foreign languages. UMMC hired her last year as a solutions strategist for education in the Division of Information Systems, where she became familiar with CVent.

When Ann Gordon, the associate director of CHPE, announced she would retire this year, Academic Affairs leadership decided that the new CHPE leader would be a Ph.D./faculty-level position with the title of director.

In May, Franklin formally took over continuing education and is now an assistant professor in the School of Health Related Professions as well. In her new job, she and her staff are dedicated to lifelong learning for health-care providers through technology and face-to-face, she said.

“We hope UMMC will be the academic home of all doctors, nurses and health-care professionals in the state and region,” she said. “When they need continuing education, we want them to think of us first.”