“He is kind of a rock star.” This is how Assistant Professor Courtney Fankhanel, MMSc, PA-C, describes Richard Moscarelli, MD, a clinical assistant professor and member of a strong cadre of voluntary faculty in the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences. Moscarelli is a physician with the Greater New Haven OB/GYN practice, who has precepted YSM Physician Associate (PA) students in their OB/GYN rotation for the past decade.
Fankhanel, the PA Program’s director of clinical education, says that whenever the program asks Moscarelli to precept, he says yes. Moscarelli also has recruited other OB/GYNs to precept for the program. This is significant because while OB/GYN is one of the PA Program’s ten core four-week clerkships, lining up clinical rotations in women’s health always has been a challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic, Fankhanel said, added a new layer of complexity to coordinating these rotations.
About a year ago, the PA Program asked Moscarelli to help it improve opportunities for rotations in women’s health, knowing it had increasing needs. Fankhanel explains that Moscarelli “reached out to his colleagues and contacts at Lawrence + Memorial (L+M) Hospital and got their buy in to serve as preceptors for YSM PA students, advocating that the students are terrific to work with.” Moscarelli had done work at L+M and knew the faculty there. He viewed them as an “untapped resource,” because many seemed to enjoy when they had the opportunity to teach. L+M, located in New London, CT, became part of the Yale New Haven Health System in 2016, helping to facilitate opportunities such as this.
New OB/GYN rotation for YSM PA students at L+ M Hospital
Moscarelli’s efforts led to the creation of a guaranteed OB/GYN rotation for one YSM PA student each month at L+M Hospital, beginning in March 2022. Jessica Illuzzi, MD, MS, deputy dean for education and Harold W. Jockers Professor of Medical Education and professor of obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences, states, “Dr. Moscarelli’s leadership has had an extraordinary impact on our PA students’ education in reproductive and women’s health. He has worked closely and thoughtfully with a team of outstanding physicians, providers, and staff at L+M Hospital, as well as our Yale Medicine specialists, to create an OB/GYN rotation that is exemplary.”
The students have been thrilled with the L+M rotation. Class of 2022 PA student Jordan Lidsky-Everson, who had the opportunity to work one-on-one with clinicians at L+M in a variety of settings including the OB/GYN clinic; reproductive endocrinology and infertility; gynecologic oncology; and labor and delivery is “so grateful for Dr. Moscarelli's effort spearheading the new L+M rotation.” She describes how “every preceptor I worked with was terrific and fostered a very comfortable learning environment” adding, “I'm excited that current classmates and future Yale PA students will now be able to attend and benefit from this new rotation.”
Fankhanel observes, “You know a clinical experience is good when, rather than express concern about traveling to New London every day, students are asking to be assigned there.” Traveling to New London also benefits students because the area has a different patient population from New Haven’s, with different health issues, diversifying the students’ training. Moscarelli noted that a couple of students have expressed an interest in doing an elective in women’s health at L+M.
"A fantastic preceptor"
Fankhanel is hopeful that this positive experience will lead more PAs to go into women’s health, a field where the PA role can fit nicely with the mix of procedural, surgical, and clinic duties. Moscarelli shared that he is grateful to the preceptors he had in medical school, explaining they “were really influential in my choosing my specialty.”
Moscarelli enjoys the intellectual interaction he has with the PA students, whom he describes as “bright and inquisitive.” Additionally, he finds it rewarding to teach the next generation of health care providers to care for women because he believes that regardless of the field a medical professional enters, it is important that they have a good understanding of women’s health issues. Moscarelli says that other OB/GYN preceptors have told him they find the PA students to be incredibly enthusiastic, kind, and good with patients, resulting in “the patients enjoying having the PA students involved.” These positive experiences lead doctors to continue to precept.
In addition to creating the rotation at L+M, Moscarelli has encouraged private practitioners in the New Haven area to offer OB/GYN rotations for Yale PA students. A significant number of faculty want to be more involved in day-to-day student teaching, Moscarelli explains, but have not had a vehicle to do this— they usually engage with student in the operating room or on the labor floor. Therefore, when Moscarelli reached out to colleagues who he knew had a desire to teach and who he thought would be good with students, “they enthusiastically embraced the role of preceptor.” Several of these doctors have committed to precepting once a week every few weeks, creating much needed OB/GYN rotations for students.
Fankhanel says Moscarelli is “a real champion of our students and has convinced colleagues that our students are very worthwhile to train.” Illuzzi reinforces this comment, “He is a champion for medical education, and we are so fortunate to have him as member of the voluntary faculty at Yale School of Medicine.”
Lidsky-Everson says, “I feel very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to spend two weeks on rotation with Dr. Moscarelli. He's a fantastic preceptor who clearly cares deeply about his students' learning experience. I really appreciated his step-wise teaching approach and his extremely thoughtful feedback. My time on rotation with Dr. Moscarelli is a big part of why I am considering pursuing a career in women's health.”
The Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences recently recognized Moscarelli’s important contributions to medical education by presenting him with the C. Lee Buxton Teaching Award, in recognition of his commitment and excellence in teaching medical and physician associate students.