Brain Rules – Part 1

This week was a little busy, but while I was searching through a few internet sites, I rediscovered this jewel at It is a presentation by Garr Reynolds (author of Presentation Zen) that focuses on 3 of the 12 Brain Rules by John Medina.

“If you are in education, you are in the business of brain development.”          -John Medina

Hopefully, I will get to post a full review of Brain Rules next week. Until then, enjoy this presentation!

Just Imagine: New Paradigms for Medical Education

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Another great article from the same issue of Academic Medicine as “Medical Education Reimagined.” This article focuses on the shortcomings of our current system of medical education and offers a review of the current “disruptive innovations.”

The “second Flexner report”

The authors cite the 2010 publication “Educating Physicians: A Call for Reform of Medical School and Residency” as identifying 4 goals to improve medical education:

  1. Standardization of learning outcomes and individualization of the learning process
  2. Integration of formal knowledge and clinical experience
  3. Development of habits of inquiry and innovation
  4. Focus on professional identity formation

Shortcomings and problems

“For all of it’s traditional successes, the current model of medical education in the United States and Canada is being challenged on issues of quality, throughput, and cost, a process that has exposed numerous shortcoming… A radical change in direction is required because the current path will not lead to a solution.”

This article doesn’t hold back any punches and list several key shortcomings in the current system including:

  • “Arcane assessment methods
  • Learning focused on test performance
  • Lack of direct observation
  • Lack of knowledge assessment or problem-solving ability
  • Productivity pressures faced by faculty
  • Inattention to improving residents’ teaching skills
  • Gaps in trainees’ clinical exposure
  • Unmet need to train more physicians
  • Medical student debt

Disruptive innovations

“In an ideal future state, all students would experience every essential inpatient and ambulatory clinical experience, would be observed during these encounters, and would receive formative feedback on such interactions to guide them in improving their knowledge, skills, and socialization to the profession.”

Several of the disruptive innovations now available to use are:

  • Flipped classrooms – eLearning content frees up class time for active learning
  • Massive open online courses (MOOCs) – 24/7 access to low cost, collaborative courses forstering “knowledge duplication”
  • Digital badges – electronic images and tracking that can follow learners through their lifetime

The authors’ vision is to achieve the goals set forth by the “second Flexner report” by transforming medical education with disruptive technologies. 

We are living in exciting, “disruptive” times and I look forward to see how the re-imagining of medical education will change us.


Cooke, et al. “Educating Physicians: A Call for Reform of Medical School and Residency.” San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2010

Mehta, et. al. “Just Imagine: New Paradigms for Medical Education.” Academic Medicine. 2013; 88(10)

Medical Education Reimagined: A Call to Action

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This is one of those articles that may (hopefully) help define a new era of medical education!

Charles Prober (senior associate dean at Stanford SOM and author of the article “Lecture Halls Without Lectures”) and Salman Khan (creator of the Khan Academy) have co-authored an editorial calling for “a collaborative, multi-institutional effort to reimagine medical education.” This “reimagining” recognizes that the current medical system is generally inflexible to individual learners and embraces the flipped classroom model at it’s core.  

They argue that the convergence of 3 key factors compels a need for change:

  1. The modern “digital native” learner
  2. Exponentially growing biomedical knowledge
  3. A dated medical education delivery system

To do this, they propose the following:

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Building a framework of core knowledge

This is the central element of the proposal and calls for a curricular change to focus on medical knowledge that is “evergreen,” or foundational and known to be true. They then call for the creation of a medical school collaborative to identify the core content, and based on this, to create short (~10 minute) videos of this core content.

Embedding the knowledge in richly interactive, compelling, and engaging formats

Interactive, engaging sessions add meaning to the knowledge and solidify the learners understanding of the material. Based on the experiences at Stanford, they also note that the sessions with video-based didactic instruction must be time neutral compared to the current model.

Encouraging in-depth pursuit of knowledge in some, but not all, domains

Here, the key is “to tap into and support the individual learner’s aptitude and passion.” Deeper “dives” into the curriculum and driven by learners and areas of expertise in each school. It also respects that some students may not feel the need to do so.

This commentary is rich with ideas to embrace technology and the flipped classroom model for our learners. It is a model that was developed for K-12 education, but as the authors note, equally relevant to medical education. There are also several keys to this model which I think are worth mentioning more in depth:

  1. Collaboration – it calls for medical schools to work together to define a core content across all schools
  2. Embracing technology – using technology not only for the core content, but also the interactive sessions to reinforce key ideas and material
  3. Encouraging multiple formats – recognizing that there will need to be several videos formats to fit various learning styles.
  4. Individualism – while collaboration is key to this endeavor, medical schools maintain individualism in the style and delivery of the interactive sessions and the areas of expertise for the “deep dives” offered to students
  5. Tailored education – students may (or may not) choose to go beyond the curriculum in “deep dives” in certain areas

I am energized by this article and excited to be an educator right now!


Prober C, Khan S. “Medical Education Reimagined: A Call to Action.” Academic Medicine. 2013;88(10):1-4

Book Review – Clear and to The Point

This is another book that helped to form my early interest in presentation design.


Stephen Kosslyn is a professor of psychology who has written many papers and books on cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. This book follows from one of his earlier works, Elements of Graphic Design. This is a very well-written and practical book that gives some great examples of “Do’s” and “Dont’s” to improve slides in presentation.

Kosslyn offers 3 goals that “virtually define an effective presentation:”

  1. Connect with your audience
  2. Direct and hold attention
  3. Promote understanding and learning

He then proposes 8 principles to achieve those goals:

  1. Principle of Relevance – Communication is most effective when neither too much or too little information is presented
  2. Principle of Appropriate Knowledge – Communication requires prior knowledge of pertinent concepts, jargon, and symbols
  3. Principle of Salience – Attention is drawn to large perceptible differences
  4. Principle of Discriminability – Two properties must differ by a large enough proportion or they will not be distinguished
  5. Principle of Perceptual Organization – People automatically group elements into units, which they then attend to and remember
  6. Principle of Compatibility – A message is easiest to understand if its form is compatible with its meaning
  7. Principle of Informative Changes – People expect changes in properties to carry information
  8. Principle of Capacity Limitations – People have a limited capacity to retain and to process information, and so will not understand a message if too much information must be retained and processed

Quotes from the book

“…you don’t want the audience to be lost in the admiration of the background of your slides.”

“Just as you wouldn’t blame Microsoft Word for every bad article you’ve read, you shouldn’t blame the Powerpoint program for every bad presentation you’ve seen.”


Kosslyn, S. Clear and to the Point. 2007. Oxford Press.