It is evening as I begin to write this Message… in a hotel room over 6,000 miles from home, my mind reflecting on the events of this day. Sevastopol Ukraine has left a lasting and unexpected impression, and one which I believe has relevance for all of us in the Basic Science Education Forum (BSEF) and our AAMC:GEA affiliated Special Interest Group (SIG). It concerns communication.
My friend and colleague from the Crimean Medical Institute was raised in this historic city on the Black Sea, and as a young boy often played among the ruins of an ancient Greek settlement. Today we walked there, past marble columns into what may have once been the Forum; the true Greek Forum (predating the Romans), where thoughts and opinions were freely spoken and openly debated. The tranquility and power of that setting reminded me that despite the sophisticated technology towards which our Forum is headed, communication from antiquity has, and always will remain, a private exercise between individuals. Technology today allows us to catapult massive amounts of information to the far side of the Globe within minutes; and because of this, ideas and opinions will increasingly be shaped and enhanced by the individual cultures of the world. The BSEF enters this arena as a means by which faculty from all cultures may be heard.
We therefore dedicate this issue of the Basic Science Educator to the art and technology of communication; from innovative ideas such as the teaching of Physiology using the World Wide Web, to considerations of improperly using the communications of others. In his commentary Steve Abrahamson provides us with an excellent example of the miscommunication that occurs when words insidiously lose their original meaning, and our Editor-in-Chief discusses the danger of communication gaps amongst those who plan our curricula. Also in this issue in our continuing series on International Perspectives, we are pleased to communicate to our readers a report on the medical education system of Italy; Assaf Rudich et al. describe an innovative course created in Israel which brings medical and graduate students together; and Reg Dennick from Nottingham, England raises a provocative question about the teaching of Biochemistry.
Since the last issue of this publication, the BSEF has been diligently working on communication activities, and we invite you to visit our web site at http://www.usd.edu/BSEF to learn more. Our plans are well under way for the Third Biennial International BSEF Conference to be hosted by the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC on June 21-24, 1997. Significant progress has also been made toward the development of Regional BSEF Offices and the appointment of Regional BSEF Directors, one in each country where we have members. This is one reason I have been invited to visit medical universities and institutes this summer here in the Ukraine and Bulgaria. Once established, these Offices and our expanded system of Regional Directors will serve to unite all faculty together throughout the 76 countries currently involved with the BSEF in a computerized Global Information Network.
Yes, it is necessary that we continually search for new and more efficient means to share information and opportunities in basic science education. But even in the glittery midst of technology we do well to remember that true communication is still an event between individuals at the most human of levels. Today I walked among Greek ruins on the shore of the Black Sea with a man I would not have known had it not been for computer technology. He lives half a world away from where I live. His culture and his language are different from mine yet we are not so different inside; nor are his students, nor the physiology he teaches them. From mutual respect through our Forum came the effective communication which has developed into a permanent friendship. Such relations must continue to be the foundation of the BSEF’s mission, and what we encourage among all those who struggle to determine the future of medical science education.