NBME Recognizes Dr. Karen Hauer with Prestigious Medical Education Research Award

Posted April 2, 2024
A photograph of Karen Hauer.


 John P. Hubbard Award Celebrates Significant Contributions to Research and Assessment

Karen Hauer, MD, PhD, was selected as the recipient of NBME’s 2024 John P. Hubbard Award in recognition of her significant contributions to the field of medical education research and assessment.

“It is a huge honor and very humbling,” Dr. Hauer said. “I feel that I am following in the footsteps of giants when I look at the list of individuals who have received this award – some of whom I’ve admired, some I’ve collaborated with and some who have mentored me over the years.”

Throughout her career, Dr. Hauer has sought to study what medical educators do and apply evidence to designing and improving education programs. She works to ensure that medical education optimally prepares physicians with the skills, knowledge and habits of mind to be expert, compassionate, patient-centered physicians who continue to learn and grow throughout their careers.

NBME President and CEO Peter Katsufrakis, MD, MBA, echoes her sentiments about past Hubbard Award recipients and expresses his support and admiration for Dr. Hauer and her accomplishments.

“NBME takes pride in being part of and supporting the community of educators, researchers and clinicians who are dedicated to advancing assessment science, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care,” Dr. Katsufrakis said. “Dr. Hauer exemplifies the finest qualities of a medical educator and researcher. We are pleased to honor her remarkable contributions with the Hubbard Award, the most prestigious recognition bestowed by NBME upon members of our community.” 

Dr. Hauer is the Vice Dean for Education and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She is an active researcher in health professions education with a focus on competency-based medical education, workplace-based assessment, equity and coaching. 

She believes in the power of competency-based medical education to advance learners’ preparedness for clinical practice. Competency-based education shifts focus beyond knowledge, which has traditionally been the focus, to also include the clinical, communication, procedural and teamwork skills that doctors need to serve their patients. She explains how a competency-based approach is developmental and adaptive, allowing medical education to both evolve with the times and generate significant data about the learner. Over time, robust data about each learner’s progress can facilitate individualized pathways, supported by a coaching relationship between the learner and a faculty educator.

“I’ve come to think about assessment much more broadly than just a test or rating at the end of a period of time,” Dr. Hauer said. “I value the learning function of assessment and how assessing learners along the way gives them the feedback and guidance they need to be most successful, particularly when they are supported with rich data and faculty serving in coaching roles.”

This approach ultimately leads to trust – medical students can trust their faculty; faculty can trust that their students are ready to practice; and patients can trust that their physicians have been trained well to provide effective, compassionate care.

Dr. Hauer is a prolific researcher, contributing to more than 200 peer-reviewed publications. She attributes her drive to take on so many research opportunities to both intrinsic motivation and a mentor early in her career who encouraged her to become a better clinician educator through research.

“When I started on faculty at UCSF, my mentor, who is a previous Hubbard Award recipient, advised me to be involved in at least one publication per year,” Dr. Hauer said. “So, I began doing research and really surprised myself with how much I liked it and how powerful it was to build the evidence base in medical education.” 

She also emphasizes the importance of equity as a guiding principle in medical education. “All learners deserve to learn and be assessed in ways that avoid bias and afford them opportunities to be successful,” Dr. Hauer said. “Education program leaders have the responsibility to monitor assessment data to look for signs of bias or inequity and address them.”

“Many institutions and employers have been thinking about diversity when they bring people in, but that’s only the first step,” Dr. Hauer further explained. “Then you need to think about, ‘How can we create learning experiences for everyone to use their diverse, unique strengths that they are bringing to the program?’ and ‘How can we implement assessment in ways that promote success and avoid harm for all learners?’”

Dr. Hauer received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University. She went on to complete medical school, an internal medicine residency and chief residency at the University of California, San Fransisco. She completed her PhD in medical education through a joint program with UCSF and the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Dr. Hauer is a practicing internal medicine specialist in primary care at UCSF Health. She is also a past recipient of the International ASPIRE Award for Excellence in Student Assessment from the AMEE International Association for Medical Education. 

Established in 1982, the John. P. Hubbard Award recognizes individuals for their outstanding contributions to the pursuit of assessment excellence within medical education. Dr. Hauer becomes part of this esteemed group of individuals whom NBME has recognized throughout the years.

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