Skip to content
Home ยป How to Adapt in Times of Change – Duke Today

How to Adapt in Times of Change – Duke Today

Lessons from staff and faculty on adjusting after challenging pandemic times
Dr. Eric Mlyn knew returning to the classroom as a lecturer after directing DukeEngage for 12 years would be an adjustment – especially during a pandemic.
But when his first class, a six-person seminar, moved online in the spring of 2020, and then his 30-person class went fully virtual the following semester, Mlyn got creative and flexible. To build rapport with students, Mlyn scheduled one-on-one meetings with each student before the start of the semester, and preferring to pace around a classroom in pre-pandemic times, he had to get comfortable sitting at a computer at his dining room table.
In many ways, adapting his teaching for Zoom in the Sanford School of Public Policy made him a better teacher. For example, he had the opportunity to invite guest lecturers from all over the world to his class.Eric Mlyn, lecturer in the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy, teaches class in February. Photo by Jack Frederick.
“Even now, it’s going to make me think about what am I missing?” said Mlyn, who led DukeEngage for 12 years. “What else can I be doing in the classroom?… I’m really excited about discovering what that is that will make the classroom and learning environment more vibrant.”
In the future of work, adaptability to change will be a secret to thriving amid disruptions. A LinkedIn Learning report that surveyed learning and development professionals across the world ranked resilience and adaptability among the most important skills.
“This idea around adapting becomes a big one,” said Gina Rogers, assistant director for Duke Learning & Organization Development (L&OD), a unit in Duke Human Resources. “It’s being agile in the communication space and being able to readily take on a different style as the opportunity presents itself.”
At Duke, adapting to changes brought by the pandemic has prepared staff and faculty for the future of work. Here are some stories.
In her role as a performance improvement specialist for Duke Primary Care, Delaney Thomas helps staff members at 20 clinics across the state learn how they can improve efficiency and solve problems related to daily operation.
Hosting training for more than 345 staff from Durham to Zebulon, the training sessions, held about once weekly on topics such as continuous improvement concepts and leadership behaviors, required in-person collaboration before the pandemic.Delaney Thomas, top right, leads a training for Duke Primary Care. Photo courtesy of Thomas.
“Our classes were all designed to be in-person,” Thomas said. “That was primarily just because they all had simulation-based activities. You were sitting with a group of four people working on an exercise to help you understand the concept. When the pandemic hit, we had to completely restructure the way we were delivering our classes.”
When it was no longer safe to gather in person, restructuring classes into virtual offerings required a complete overhaul of every session. Thomas and her colleagues had to turn tried-and-true activities into virtual breakout rooms on Zoom and share informational handouts and PowerPoint slides online, a new format.
Instead of each person coming to the training space in Durham, Thomas and her teammates adapted classes to be administered through the Duke Learning Management System (LMS), which required working closely with Leah Ricker and Brian Aucoin in Duke Health Technology Solutions to learn a system they’d never used before.
“It was a challenging but rewarding transition,” Thomas said.
Eventually, through a process of trial and error, Thomas and the team figured out a formula for how staff could continue to learn and stay safe. After implementing virtual training then hybrid sessions and recorded sessions, Thomas and her colleagues recorded sessions, which has saved people a commute and kept people safe during the Omicron surge while offering flexibility.
“I was pleased with how we were able to make a product really flexible,” Thomas said. “For me, when I make a product, I want to make it not just for today, but tomorrow and make it so that you can take this and adapt it to different environments.”
After five years of working at Duke, Lynn Lieberman was ready to take on a new challenge amid the pandemic.
When she was offered the position as program coordinator in the Fuqua School of Business Master of Quantitative Management Program (MSQM), she took the role. But switching units required a 180-degree change.
Fuqua Master of Quantitative Management Program coordinator Lynn Lieberman, bottom right, leads a virtual escape room event. Photo courtesy of Lieberman. Instead of working remotely from her home in Cary with her cat, Mingo, which she had done since March 2020, Lieberman took a position that required her on campus each day.
It felt like starting over at a new place, meeting new colleagues, and learning new applications like Canvas. But after a period of adjustment, Lieberman has been inspired in her work planning events for students, including career advice sessions and virtual board game events.
“I learned to be open to new ideas…” Lieberman said. “If you want to do something, just be open to it and try it out. You might enjoy it. Who knows?”
Prior to the pandemic, Elaine Kelley had never used telehealth services to meet with patients.
When she joined the Duke Raleigh Hospital Thoracic Surgery Clinic as the lung cancer screening physician assistant provider in December 2020, she had to pivot quickly to the virtual visit system, which became an imperative part of safely meeting with patients amid COVID-19 to go over results of screening CT scans of their lungs.
“I thought I wouldn’t get a lot of satisfaction out of that,” she said. “I worried about not being in a room with the patient and being able to examine and see them or hold their hand — that kind of human interaction that we feel deeply about in medicine.”Physician assistant Elaine Kelley. Photo courtesy of Duke Health.
What she found was that Duke Telehealth Services, offered as part of Maestro Care, made screenings much more accessible and convenient for patients who are at high risk of developing cancer in their lives. Instead of coming to the clinic multiple times, patients can fulfill follow up appointments virtually with Kelley to discuss results from home, work or wherever is convenient.
The virtual offering has significantly cut down on cancellations and no-show appointments during the pandemic, Kelley said.
“It’s just easier for people, so that’s really improved the outcomes,” she said. “Our whole goal is to get as many patients screened as possible that need to, so we can detect lung cancer early when it’s easier to treat.”
Send story ideas, shout-outs and photographs through our story idea form or write [email protected].

Follow [email protected] on Twitter and Facebook.
Copy and paste the URL below to share this page.
Shortfall leaves millions of lives at risk
© Copyright 2021 Duke University. All rights reserved.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *