Following a whirlwind journey (more about that later), Ryan Palmer, Ed.D., recently joined the University as the College of Medicine’s new associate dean of medical education and associate professor of family and community medicine.
Are you a Northeast Ohio native?
I’m actually from Northern California. I grew up and did my undergrad work there. I lived in Chicago and completed my graduate work there, then I was in Portland, Oregon, for over a decade, and completed my doctoral work. However, my wife is from the Youngstown area, so I like to say I married into the area.
Tell us about that journey to NEOMED.
This time last year, I was preparing to leave Portland and move to the Caribbean with my family to work at the American University of the Caribbean in St. Maarten. With a young family, my wife and I figured it was the right time to take an opportunity like this if we were ever going to.
We sold a lot of our stuff, shipped the other stuff and moved down to the Caribbean in mid-August. Three weeks later, we got directly hit by Hurricane Irma. We were there for the worst Atlantic land-hit ever recorded. The 185 mph winds tore the island to pieces. The whole society collapsed. It was like a post-apocalyptic movie, but real and very scary. After evacuating, my wife and I decided it was best for our family not to return to the island (I had been relocated to Chicago and was working remotely). We wanted to be closer to family, so that’s when I started exploring opportunities in Northeast Ohio and was very fortunate for the opportunity at NEOMED to come up. Everything really did come together in the end and I couldn’t be happier to be here.
How did you become interested in medical education in the first place?
Believe it or not, I originally got into medical education through standardized patient work. I was in Chicago when somebody from my graduate program in acting at DePaul University told me the University of Chicago medical school needed people to play patients. I’d seen Seinfeld, so I kind of knew what standardized patients were. It was great; it was acting, but it was teaching, too. I liked being a standardized patient and I discovered I really liked working with the medical students. The University began to let me do more sophisticated cases where I had the opportunity to teach more, and from there I tried to think of how to leverage medical education with my graduate degree. An opportunity to administer a course at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, came up and the rest is history!
What will you do as the College of Medicine’s new associate dean of curriculum?
Curriculum is like a big ship that takes lots of very talented and devoted people to run. There are multiple stakeholders and everyone has a role that is critical to keeping the ship afloat. I see my role primarily as a collaborator and facilitator – someone who works with the stakeholders to define the vision and then keep the ship on course.
With my job as the associate dean of medical education, a lot of things are happening all the time. I find it very creative. You’re constantly problem-solving. It’s constantly messy and there’s constantly something that needs to be readjusted. Ultimately, to me, I find that exhilarating. I come in every day to a new set of problems and issues. Some people would find it crazy to enjoy that, but I say it genuinely, this job is an extrovert’s dream and an introvert’s nightmare — and luckily, I’m the former. It’s really about relationships. I’m only as strong as the people I work with. My team, my faculty colleagues and the student body are all stakeholders in this. We all have a common objective, which is to create amazing doctors.
What are some of your favorite spots in Northeast Ohio?
I love the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but the absolute coolest place in Cleveland, in my opinion, is the West Side Market. It is one of my happy places, mainly because they have bacon jerky. You’ve never lived until you’ve tried bacon jerky.
-Photo courtesy of Bruce Ford