Meet the team: Diarmuid, Director of Academic Affairs at iheed

Diarmuid Breathnach 31 May 2021

As Director of Academic Affairs at iheed (Cambridge Education Group), Diarmuid’s role is to lead the iheed faculty in partnership with accrediting universities to deliver transformative medical education programmes to clinicians across the globe.

Diarmuid leads a team of educationalists, student support staff, and some of the world’s most accomplished medical educators to offer postgraduate healthcare qualifications in a flexible, engaging and fun learning environment.

What attracted you to iheed and medical education?

My background in organisational psychology initially focussed on mentorship in professional training environments. That quickly led to the exploration of adult learning and the interplay between education, training and assessment in professional environments.

I have spent my career overseeing postgraduate education programmes where participants are full-time professionals and part-time learners.  Of all domains, healthcare education is one of the most challenging and rewarding. Clinicians are required to be constantly up-to-date and professionally competent in their specialist areas. This often requires them to undertake education programmes while balancing busy clinical workloads and family life. 

The opportunity I saw at iheed is to create programmes that leverage the very latest in online learning technology and instructional design to create incredibly compelling experiences for our learners.  At iheed, we partner with some of the most prestigious institutions in medical education globally and we see ourselves as custodians of their brands. We are obsessive about quality and are always striving to push the envelope in terms of what is possible in healthcare education.  My role is to complement outstanding elearning with carefully planned delivery models that offer exceptional learner support enabling participants to achieve academic success and grow professionally.  

How do you view success?

It is easy to focus on completion rates, strong alumni referrals, or high Net Promoter Scores but for me, the barometer is the impact healthcare education programmes can have. As an example, alumni from our Masters in Diabetes Care programme with the University of Warwick have gone on to serve on National Diabetes Strategy committees and influence the prevention and treatment of diabetes across the Middle East. Others have become educators or manage specialist clinics. Hearing their stories about how our education program has changed and improved their patient care is a phenomenal reward.

What does the future hold?

The benchmark for a positive online education experience is not a good, digitized version of a face-to-face class, learners now compare their education experience to that of their other online interactions.  The quality of an academic institution’s education offering is (perhaps unfairly) being compared to Google, Netflix, Facebook, Tik Tok, etc.  With that comes a growing expectation of simplicity of use, thoughtful design, personalised recommendations of content tailored to individual learning needs, and a high degree of social interaction.  At iheed, we intend to be at the forefront of this evolution, using the latest online tools and programmatic design to create a unique, compelling learning experience.