Pallavi Utukuri, MD, Accepted into the Virginia Apgar Academy of Educators

Medical Student Educator Recognized for Her Innovations in Med Ed

March 23, 2022
Dr. Pallavi Utukuri, associate professor of radiology at CUIMC

Dr. Pallavi Utukuri, associate professor of radiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), has been accepted into the Virginia Apgar Academy of Educators at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S). Membership in the academy recognizes Utukuri's impressive educational contributions to the Department of Radiology and her commitment to students at all levels of training.

"I'm honored to be recognized for the work I've done in radiology education and excited to meet and collaborate with educators from other departments," said Utukuri.

The Apgar Academy is an active community of educators at VP&S dedicated to promoting, rewarding, and supporting outstanding education for Columbia's medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty.

As the department's director of medical student education since 2012, Utukuri has transformed radiology education at VP&S through a number of innovative projects. Her popular virtual autopsy project, now in its sixth year, introduces imaging to first-year medical students by providing CT scans of cadavers for the Gross Anatomy class, which the medical students analyze and learn from before they do a dissection.

More recently, Utukuri received the Hybrid Learning Course Redesign and Delivery grant from the Office of the Provost at Columbia, which she used to create a "flipped" classroom curriculum for the medical school radiology elective. In this model, didactic lectures are provided online along with practice tests, and live classroom time is spent reviewing cases. Her vision proved to be timely, and radiology was the first elective to move fully online at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Utukuri has collected data on the flipped model through surveys, and the response from medical students has been overwhelmingly positive. The new model for the elective also allows more students to rotate through the department. "We had been able to accomodate about eight students a month rotating through the department," says Utukuri, "and since June 2020 we've taken 20 students a month. Many more medical students are learning radiology now."  

She also oversees a resident Teaching Club and is involved in lectures that are provided in all four years of medical school at VP&S. "My goal is to give our students a much better understanding of how vital imaging is," she says.

"Dr. Utukuri has transformed the way we introduce radiology to our medical students at VP&S," said Dr. Elise Desperito, vice chair of education for the Department of Radiology and assistant professor of radiology at CUIMC. "This kind of exposure to a specialty can be life-changing for a medical student. It can actually shape their future in medicine."

As a member of the Apgar Academy, Utukuri will have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with educators from other departments, and further grow her vision for radiology in medical student education. She is the first member of the Department of Radiology to be accepted into the academy.