In 1846, William T.G. Morton made history when he demonstrated the first public surgery using an anesthetic (ether) in the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) surgical amphitheater. In that same space, now known as the Ether Dome, members of the MGH community—educators, clinicians, scientists, and trainees—gathered on Monday evening to see visiting scholar Dr. Anthony Artino in action. This time, no anesthesia was involved.  

From the lectern in the historic Ether Dome, Dr. Artino (or “Tony”) explored the role and use of survey methodologies in medical and health professions education research. As an editor for several reputable journals, such as the Journal of Graduate Medical Education and Academic Medicine, he shared that more than half of original research in medical education journals typically involve surveys and rejections often result from poor survey design or low response rates. In his grand rounds, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Surveys,” (a riff off a famous quote by Mark Twain) which was co-hosted by MGH’s Slavin Academy for Applied Learning in Health Care and its Institute of Health Professions (IHP), Artino discussed when (and when not) to use surveys and shared his six principles for designing and improving survey quality. He also explored cognitive and motivational processes involved when respondents engage with surveys.

“People are generally unmotivated to take your surveys,” Artino shared during his grand rounds, “and the harder you make your survey to complete, the less motivated they will become and the less useful the feedback will be.”

Sharing tips for improving motivation and survey quality, Artino encouraged the group to make surveys “conversational,” like you are having an actual conversation with another person.   

There is no questioning Artino’s expertise in educational research and survey design, considering his distinguished career, scientific leadership experience, and authorship of more than 250 peer reviewed publications, numerous books, and research grants. Artino, who currently serves as professor and associate dean for educational research at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., spent more than 23 years as an active-duty military officer and retired in 2020 as a Captain in the U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps. With academic degrees in biomedical engineering, physiology, instructional systems, and educational psychology, Artino applies a holistic, common-sense and interdisciplinary approach to his research and combines it with his passion for teaching.

a man in a suit stands mid-gesture in front of tables with people

At the MGH Institute of Health Professions on Tuesday, Dr. Artino held an interactive workshop with 60 faculty, staff, and PhD students centered on Monday’s MGH presentation, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Surveys.” Artino led small groups to identify survey pitfalls and best practices.

On the second day of his visit, Artino led an interactive workshop in another historic Boston location—the Charlestown Navy Yard and home to the MGH Institute of Health Professions (IHP). Artino remarked, as a former Navy Captain, that it was a special moment to teach with a view of the U.S.S. Constitution visible from the classroom window. About 60 of the Institute’s faculty, staff, and PhD students convened for the workshop and were immediately put to work. Artino demonstrated pitfalls in survey design with real-time examples to prove his points. Attendees then worked in small groups to evaluate real-world survey items, applying principles and practices shared by Artino, to identify potential problems and test-drive cognitive interviewing and pre-test strategies used to improve survey quality. The attendees also got the chance to develop their own survey items—many related to their current research—with real-time feedback from Artino and workshop attendees.   

“I am always amazed at Tony’s ability to deconstruct a complex issue, like designing effective research surveys, and distill the key issues, offer practical solutions, and provide hands-on opportunities to faculty and trainees alike to help build their confidence and competency in conducting high quality educational research,” offered Reamer Bushardt, PharmD, PA-C, DFAAPA, professor, provost, and vice president for academic affairs at the MGH Institute of Health Professions.

“This was such an engaging opportunity for our community of educators, all of whom walked away with practical skills and knowledge that they can put into practice right away to advance their own scholarship and teaching,” shared James Gordon, MD, professor of emergency medicine and medicine at Harvard Medical School and MGH’s chief learning officer, who also oversees the Slavin Academy, adding “the Slavin Academy and the IHP are always delighted to work together to create impactful opportunities for members of the MGH community to come together to learn, grow, and collaborate.”