It's been a trying year for medical schools and students worldwide. This is particularly true for clinical-years students, many of whom have been 'furloughed' from their hospital rotations as institutions try to limit the number of healthcare-workers involved in patient care in attempts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
While this makes sense for schools to do, medical students are thus put in a particularly interesting position. If they are asked to miss clinical rotations, the general public risks losing out on having a well-trained wave of doctors entering the workforce after graduation. If students miss clinical rotations, they lose vital experience interacting with patients and colleagues as part of a smoothly-functioning healthcare team. And, importantly, if students miss out on clinical experiences, they miss out on practicing vital physical examinations and procedures that every medical graduate must be proficient in.
So, medical schools are in a tough position. On one hand, they need their students to be away from rotations for public safety (and their own). But on the other hand, they need their students to continue to skill-up in clinical reasoning, judgment, and the like - also for public safety. Conundrum. What to do?
🥂 A timely collaboration
Given that basically every medical school in the world faced (and continues to face) this problem, it was urgent that a solution be found. And in March 2020, something reasonably shocking - and in fact rather magical - happened. Two of the world's best medical schools - Monash Medical School and University of New South Wales Medical School - decided to join forces, and to have doctors within their systems create a fully online curriculum for clinical year medical students that covers every high-yield case and patient presentation that any graduating medical student in the world is likely to see in their first year as a practicing doctor.
Now, this is a rather unprecedented move. Medical schools all over the world are notorious for the competitive positions they take with respect to each other. They compete for students. They all purport to have the best teaching practices. They don't generally work together. And they certainly don't make materials from 'inside' available to everyone on the 'outside'. But given the circumstances, this was a world-class decision by two visionary Deans who put their money where their mouths were in their quest to help the world's medical students.
🚀 Alright - so what exactly did they do?
In their final year of medical school, medical students generally spend their time in hospitals, rotating through the different specialties of medicine and surgery. Their teaching and learning shifts from the 'fact memorization' of their pre-clinical years, to a more holistic, case-based approach. They work as a functioning member of the healthcare team, and have the opportunity to develop their communication, teamwork, and clinical reasoning skills within a well-defined power curve of high-yield patient cases. Before March 2020, the only way for students to get this priceless learning was to attend their hospital rotations, and to take whatever cases floated their way.
Then the pandemic hit, and students were sent home - their graduation dates still looming, but with no way to access the important learning they needed to develop their core competencies. So Professor Michelle Leech (the Dean of Medicine at Monash University), and Associate Professor Adrienne Torda (the Associate Dean of Medical Education at University of New South Wales) sprang into action, curating a multinational collaboration of doctors around Australia and the broader world to approximate every required pearl of clinical learning, to deliver it fully online - and - to make it freely available to every medical school and medical student in the world.
The collaborative clinical learning resource, dubbed the 'Preparation For Practice' pathway, contains over 50 authentic cases that test students' clinical reasoning, using real scenarios, real charts, medical imaging, blood test results, medication charts, and case summaries. It is built in Sophya, so every case can be practiced and learned using Sophya's learning-science tools, such as spaced-repetition, effortful-recall flashcards, the ability to draw on videos for strong memory anchor creation, and its artificial intelligence-powered note-taking. Using built-in social and collaborative-learning tools, medical students can work through cases together in groups or with preceptors, just like in their hospital attachments. The Pathway is fully modifiable, and can be localized to any region with relative ease. Aren't we lucky that humans from all over the world are pretty much the same?
🌏 Global Reception
The creation of the Preparation for Practice pathway by these two University Deans and their teams sends a clear message to medical students that some schools are willing to put aside politics in order to equip students with the knowledge and learning resources that they need. The curriculum is already being used in a vast number of medical schools worldwide, in regions including North America, Oceania, Asia, Europe, and Africa. Faculty and student feedback has been exceptional on every level, including on case quality, case coverage, relevance to clinical learning needed for post-graduation, and the included learning technology.
In this newly developing world, where we'll eventually settle to a 'new, new normal', online learning is certainly going to be a major component of every student's life. These two Universities have set a clear precedent on how to effectively work together for the benefit of all our learners.
❤️ Do you want the Preparation For Practice curriculum?
Every medical school and student in the world is welcome to have their own copy of the Preparation For Practice curriculum, for free. Get in touch and let us know - there are no strings attached - this is Sophya doing our part to support the wonderful work done by these two visionary Universities to help every medical student.
Thank you, Monash and UNSW! 👏🏼
Interested in the Preparation for Practice curriculum? Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org! We'll get you up and running within 12 hours.🙌🏾
About the authors:
Vishal Punwani is the CEO of Sophya, the world's first Learner Optimization platform. He is a resident physician, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs, and a mentor for startups at Harvard and Oxford Universities. He loves animals, worldly adventures, and extreme sass. Follow him on Twitter @Vishy_vish 🤵🏽
Ayse Baybars is the CJO (Chief Joy Officer) at Sophya. After graduating from Harvard College, she received her MBA from Harvard Business School. She gained expertise in public health working at the World Health Organization before joining Sophya. She is currently stuck in the English countryside and loves spin, soft-ripened goat cheese, large format wine, and the German national football team. Follow her on Twitter at @ayse_baybars 🙆🏼♀️
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