While traditional teaching methods have given rise to generations of medical giants, the new generation of medical students live and learn in a vastly different environment, and teaching tools should evolve accordingly.

If you can’t beat them, join them – rules and regulations banning the use of technology in classes and lectures are futile, and perhaps unnecessary. New technology could be paving the way to teaching medical students of the future.

1) Snapchat surgery through the surgeon’s eyes

Medical students often ‘watch and learn’ in operating theatres – where vision range limits educational outcome, especially in larger teaching groups.

Surgeon Dr Shafi Ahmed had the idea of utilising Snapchat’s Spectacles to record highlights of a surgical procedure – from his point of view – which medical students could then view. This wearable technology also caters to the unreliable nature of human memory, according to Ahmed.

“The Snapchat platform is really interesting because it mimics who we are. It thinks on a 24-hour, short-term basis, and we, as individuals, work in short-term basis. We see things, we forget about them. Some goes into our long-term memory, but most of it, 95% of it, is all short-term,” he said.

Video clips limited to mere seconds also forces students and teachers to think about anatomical structures in realistic terms.

2) “Tell me your story.”

There is hardly time in a busy clinical environment to hear out the stories of every patient. As fourth-year Stanford medical student Hamsika Chandrasekar said: “Rarely do we see what our patients’ lives are like outside the medical setting — at home, at school, at church, and so on.”

A pilot course by Stanford medical students and Henry C. Lee, associate professor of paediatrics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, allowed the stories of patients to be conveyed through five-minute videos. Students immersed themselves in the daily challenges faced by patients and their families due to their illnesses, along with the frustration of being treated like “paperwork” in healthcare settings, and reproduced them in a video.

“I felt her pain and frustration and felt her hopes and determination,” said one of the students, Stephanie Chen. “I hope my video was able to share a glimpse into her life and stay true to her story.”

3) Ageing virtually

This new innovation gives medical students a whole new perspective to empathy – quite literally. Creator of the ‘We Are Alfred’ program Carrie Shaw developed it with Embodied Labs to bridge the gap between young medical students and elderly patients.

“Medical students are usually in their early 20s and not experiencing those kinds of challenges yet, so we decided to create something that would give them the experience of what it might be like to go through the ageing process,” said Shaw.

Utilising a virtual-reality headset, students assume the point-of-view of an elderly man, experiencing the challenges of visual and auditory impairments first-hand. For example, in one of the simulation scenes, students struggle with a cognitive test, not because of Alfred’s cognitive abilities, but because he cannot hear what the doctor is asking him to do.

“We wanted something that was as accurate to the experience of somebody discovering that they have an impairment, their family confronting them about it and then them having to go act upon that discovery,” said Ryan Lebar, Embodied Labs’s director.

4) Medical comics: The amazing adventures of a medical student

Science and art can go hand in hand, as illustrated by students of a class called ‘Comics in Medicine’ taught by Michael Green, vice chair of the department of humanities at Penn State College of Medicine.

In this month-long course, students engage in activities that allow them to better understand important clinical experiences.

“The medium of comics frees students up to express themselves metaphorically in ways they might not be inclined to do otherwise,” says Green.

He also believes the skills involved in creating comics are relevant to being a doctor. “You have to really concentrate and be an observer of the world around you if you want to accurately depict a scene where a doctor is interacting with a patient,” he said.

This includes paying close attention to body language and facial expressions, and student works reveal a great deal about how they see themselves within the medical culture.

Nick Love, a Stanford medical student, demonstrates another creative way to learn medicine – by illustrating mnemonics. He brings mnemonics to life through drawings and adds another element to memorising mnemonics.

“When I began medical school, I was totally unaware of the central role mnemonics play in medical education. They are everywhere!” he said. MIMS

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