Helping to educate tomorrow’s doctors.

From J D Faccinetti  –  Shortly after my acromegaly treatment had begun in 2011, I got a call from my friend and now Pituitary World News partner Dr. Lewis Blevins. He had given my name to Amin Azzam, MD a professor and director of the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP). I met Dr. Azzam who told me about the JMP’s innovative approaches to medical education, specifically in the development of student’s clinical skills.  He told me  they wanted to include an acromegaly case in their Problem Based Learning (PBL) curriculum.

In Problem Based Learning (PLB), the Joint Medical Program students work with deliberate patient scenarios typically crafted from real cases. Here’s how the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program explains the process:

The goals of PBL are not necessarily solving the problems in the cases, but instead identifying learning opportunities, integrating the foundational science underlying medical knowledge, building on previous knowledge, and actively teaching and learning. Most excitingly for students to experience and faculty to watch unfold, through case-based learning JMP students learn to think like doctors. Students receive information from each case in small, meaningful segments, unveiled sequentially on a student-directed timeline, when the group is ready for more. Along the way, students ask questions, consult resources, and identify research areas for further investigation.

I worked directly with Dr. Jennifer Breckler who lectures in the program and who wrote the acromegaly case for which we provided some detailed information on my condition, labs, MRI’s and other clinical details. Importantly, the case included a personal patient perspective so students could focus on a person’s state of mind, background, way of life, etc. The idea was not only to present the medical condition, but for students to also understand the personal side. After a few informational and anecdotal sessions, Dr. Breckler created a case under a fictitious name but based on real specific information and details on my condition.

Both Dr. Blevins and I thought this was a great opportunity to expose medical students to a rare disease like acromegaly very early in their careers. This was a chance to directly affect the life of future doctors. Once they were exposed to a real case, meet a real patient after whom the case was designed, and to whom they could ask questions directly and in person, they would never forget it. What an opportunity to put acromegaly, and pituitary disorders in general, on their collective radars.

The students go through the course studying the symptoms, the labs, the stories, etc., until they make a diagnosis. I usually come in the last day of the class to make a presentation, answer their questions and make Pituitary World News resources and myself available.  I always leave convinced that if any of those students in the course of their careers, regardless of the specialty they choose, are ever presented with a specific set of relevant symptoms, they will always put pituitary disease in the list of possibilities. We’ve also become even more convinced that if more medical programs included this type of exposure to rare cases during basic training, when physicians reach their practice areas they would, at the very least, put pituitary disease in their “let’s consider it” list more often.

Participating in UC Berkeley-UCF Joint Medical Program has been a most rewarding and personally fulfilling activity. It is such a direct way to make an impact, particularly with rare pituitary disorders that are so typically miss diagnosed. This coming May it will be my fourth presentation to a new group of students. Each student group I’ve met has been as impressive as the last. They are smart, talented, involved and caring future doctors, and the JMP staff has done a superb job in providing an excellent learning experience.

With these Pituitary World News efforts designed to increase awareness pituitary conditions so more people are diagnosed early and properly we hope to encourage more of these participatory and collaborative efforts.


Photo by Dr Farouk – see more of his work

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