Medical Science Educator Volume 13: No. 1

Message from the President

Giulia A. Bonaminio, Ph.D.

Several weeks ago I attended our medical student spring formal, an annual event at which students recognize and honor the best teachers and courses in all four years of our curriculum. As the names were called and those receiving awards rose from their seats and stepped forward, I noted that several were members of IAMSE…. Read more »

The Medical Educator’s Resource Guide

John R. Cotter, Ph.D.

During the preparation of this edition of the Resource Guide, I was reminded that many of us encounter delays downloading Web pages when using a home computer. In my experience, it is the reason that is most often cited by students for not using the Web outside of the confines of our school’s computer facility…. Read more »

An Integrated Module to Introduce Freshmen Medical Students to Breast Cancer in the First-Term of the Curriculum

Patrick W. Tank, Ph.D.1, Linda A. Deloney, Ed.D.2, E. Robert Burns, Ph.D.3

Preliminary findings were presented at the 8th International Ottawa Conference on Medical education and assessment (July 1998) and the 5th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Medical Science Educators (July 2001).


Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in the United States. Although the basic science and physical examination aspects of breast cancer education had been included in the curriculum at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences for many years, the psychosocial aspects of the disease process had not been emphasized. When a new Introduction to Clinical Medicine course was added to the curriculum, the basic science and psychosocial aspects of breast cancer were interwoven into a teaching module that has proven to be very effective. The purpose of this paper is to describe this teaching module and discuss its impact.

Teaching and Learning from the Community: The Development of a Student-Run Outreach Program

James Hsiao, (MSIII)


For a group of first-year students at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the statistics and trends indicative of the widening gap between the medical establishment and the Baltimore city population propelled them to create an outreach program, Baltimore Community Medical Outreach (BCMO). The purpose of the program is to empower city residents with the knowledge and consciousness required to establish contact with a health care provider as an initial step in addressing their medical needs. In its first year of operation, the group delivered a series of workshops at a local village center on a range of topics including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), hypertension, diabetes, and nutrition. The process of information dissemination, coupled with the audience’s sharing of experiences, generated a collective knowledge that the audience could subsequently use to surmount the obstacles to patient-provider contact. The medical students learned many things in turn, including the transient holding power of medical advice, the need to tailor health guidelines to a specific population, and the many factors, such as family history of a disease, that drive a patient to action.

Association of Remedial Tutorial to Students at Risk of Failing Anatomy and Their Improved Performance

Nagaswami S. Vasan, D.V.M., Ph.D.


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a structured, interactive remedial tutorial intervention program for at risk students. During the period studied, between 10 and 20% of the first year students failed the unit 1 gross and developmental anatomy examination. These students were provided with a highly structured series of weekly interactive remedial tutorials (3-4 hours each for 13 weeks) that specifically involved the application of factual knowledge to clinical problem solving. Their performances on subsequent departmental and National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) subject examinations were evaluated. By developing a remedial tutorial program in an interactive small group format with specific goals the at-risk students built confidence and acquired the cognitive ability to solve clinical problems. As a result, they successfully completed the anatomy course. Data collected from the last five years firmly supports the concept that, independent of a student’s prior experience, consistent practice with problem solving enables successful completion of the first year course.

Introducing Critical Appraisal of Biomedical Literature to First-year Medical Students in Histology

Joseph P. Forester, D.O., Maria S. Cole, Ph.D., Pamela P. Thomas, Ph.D. and David L. McWhorter, Ph.D.


During the preclinical phase of medical school, most students rely on instructor-provided lecture notes and required textbooks, and note taking during lectures. By the time medical students begin their clinical clerkships, they are accustomed to accepting the word of authority at face value. Paradoxically, physicians must be able to critically evaluate and solve patient problems from a rapidly expanding body of biomedical literature. To address this discrepancy and to help show the relevance of histology to medicine, we implemented a program to introduce critical reading of biomedical literature throughout our 21-week histology course. During weeks one through four, students in the class of 2003 (N = 224) were randomly divided into 56 groups (n = 4) and taught how to conduct a MEDLINE search. Groups were required to submit a biomedical publication abstract from their MEDLINE search that contained histological and clinical elements by week eight. Subsequently, students attended two 60-minute critical appraisal seminars. By week 15, groups submitted a one-page summary of their selected journal publication and answered a set of critical appraisal questions. During weeks 16-19, students prepared a four-minute oral presentation. Three years later, these students were asked to assess the value of our critical appraisal program. Most respondents agreed and strongly agreed (96.1%) that the time needed to complete Critical Appraisal program was manageable. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents (74.5%) agreed and strongly agreed that the Critical Appraisal program demonstrated the relevance of histology to medicine, helped in other courses, and fostered collegiality among classmates. More than fourth-fifths of respondents (86.3%) agreed and strongly agreed that the Critical appraisal program was worth the effort. The critical appraisal program described herein is a resource-efficient method for introducing critical appraisal of biomedical literature to first-year medical students within the context of a first-year basic science course.

A Digital Approach to Cellular Ultrastructure in Medical Histology: Creation and Implementation of an Interactive Atlas of Electron Microscopy

Jennifer K. Brueckner, Ph.D.


This study investigated student acceptance of a digital atlas of electron microscopy (EM) in the 2001 medical histology course at the University of Kentucky. The course’s set of electron micrographs was digitized and incorporated into an instructional multimedia program using Macromedia Authorware 5.2. Student attitudinal survey data was collected prior to digital EM atlas use and again at the end of the semester. Most students (88%) reported using the digital EM atlas for study at home rather than on campus, while only 31% reported using similar learning tools at home prior to medical school. A significantly higher proportion of students used the EM atlas for independent study than they did with prior computer-assisted instruction (CAI). In addition, the reported frequency of CAI use decreased between pre- and post-use surveys. Prior to medical school, 29% of students reported using CAI routinely, while only 6% of students used the digital EM atlas on a routine, weekly basis. Instead, most students (83%) used the digital EM atlas primarily as a review during the week prior to examination. Nevertheless, students were significantly more enthusiastic (more respondents strongly agreed) that their study efficiency and exam performance was increased after using the EM atlas as compared with other CAI they had used. Students’ prior histology experience or lack thereof, had no significant effect on their attitudes toward or use of the digital EM atlas.

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