ndab Ah Yes, Medical School: PBL: A Primer for the Novice

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

PBL: A Primer for the Novice

This week marks the last week of official classroom-related problem-based learning (PBL) I will ever have to do in my entire life.

Excuse me for a moment while I shed a tear of joy and re-read the previous sentence to myself 100 times.


OK, I'm back. Having been through almost two full years of weekly PBL sessions, I think I've learned a lot about how these things work, what constitutes good behavior, and, more frequently, what constitutes bad behavior. So as a public service to all, and to continue my ever-alarming rate of procrastination on the impending set of finals, I have created an important list of Do's and Dont's to help future medical students contribute to the enriching learning experience that is PBL...by which I mean to teach them not be such annoying assholes all the time (a losing battle, I know, but a noble one):


DO: volunteer at least once to be the scribe (aka the schmuck who has to keep track of all the stupid things people say and write them down on the white board). Volunteer?!? Have I been kidnapped and replaced by…well…any sane person in his class?!? But seriously, this can actually be fun - when that moron in your class says something stupid, you can just give him/her a look and/or totally ignore the idea. This also means shooting down stupid learning issue ideas, and having the chance to write so illegibly that people just give up and you can draw whatever you want on the board for your own amusement (as an example of what I have used the scribe board for, you can view my rendition of the human body that kept me from getting skipped past second grade here). And there's no better way to guarantee not falling asleep in a classroom with eight other people than being forced to stand up for the entire time (feel free to ask my roommate how falling asleep in a small classroom of eight people turns out).

DO NOT: volunteer other people to be the scribe on multiple occasions. What kind of schmuck does something like this? The kind that goes to medical school, apparently. I'm dying here.

DO: make a contribution or hypothesis when you have something intelligent to say, which, given the material they give you, can only happen a maximum of three times per session. There is so much to these cases that is either obvious or completely unintelligible at the onset; given this, there are really only a few things that any of us can comment on given our level of knowledge. However, you may be shocked (shocked!) to learn that this is not quite as common-sense as you'd think, which leads naturally to…

DO NOT: feel the need to say something every five minutes. This could include drawing on your time as an experienced EMT (asshole) or that one time you had a cold (moron). This also goes for showboating about how rich you are. If we’re on a case at all dealing with muscles and you start off a sentence with “I feel like I can sympathize with these patients because this one time I was hanging out in this country club with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver…”, just end it. You know who you are. Maybe Daddy can buy you first class tickets to Vail, or even an Oompa Loopma, but he sure as hell can't buy you half a brain.

DO: pay attention to the name of the patient if you want to look smart. Huh? Well if your medical school is as academically questionable as mine, you may find that hidden in the name of the patient’s initials or actual name is the clue to figuring out the disease at hand. I wish I was joking, but we had an entire block of this crap not too long ago. So if Herman I. Venereal or Drinky McAlcoholic presents to you in the form of a PBL case, save your group the suspense and make the diagnosis on Part I. And yes, people like me trained under this method of education will be diagnosing and operating on you in the near future.

DO NOT: intentionally give other people more work to do. This has actually happened to me on multiple occasions. Everyone gets their learning issue (an assigned topic to be researched and presented to the group in the concluding session for a given case) at the end of the first session, and someone thinks of something else they want to be looked up. The topic mildly, vaguely, BARELY relates to my topic. And some prick decides it’s ok to say something like “well, it is very similar to what you are doing, so would you mind adding an additional learning issue and look up that stuff as well?” The hopeful eyes of an entire group, doctor included, turn in your direction, leaving you with either the option of sucking it up and taking the assignment or “not being a team player.” Maybe this is why I was never good at sports.

(Quick aside: Issues of being a team player notwithstanding, I was probably never really good at sports because, despite my six-foot height, I am afflicted with a serious case of Jew. Thus, I peaked athletically at age 10, batting 1.000 in a Jewish baseball league against Orthodox Jewish kids half my height. Paul Young Sports Camp Hall of Fame sucka!!!)

DO: pay attention when you are copy-and-pasting learning issues. While there is no reason to re-write whatever AccessMedicine has already condensed to perfection, don’t be that moron in your group who is copy-and-pasting from different sources with glee, only to not notice that everything is in different fonts. That’s just blatant and poor form. And if there’s one thing I won’t stand for, it is poor form when cutting corners.

DO NOT: be an ethnically or racially insensitive asshole. OK, so it turns out that Ashkenazi Jews are predisposed to any number of horrifically terrible genetic diseases. But if you feel the need to stare at me, or my equally pasty brethren, every time Tay-Sachs or Crohn’s Disease is brought up in PBL, I’m going to do what any self-respecting Jew would do and…call my lawyer. Asshole. This same logic applies to diseases that other racial or ethnic groups are predisposed to. Hey, moron, no need to stare at the African-American girl in our group for two hours when we’re talking about sickle cell disease. I’m pretty sure she knows she’s black.

(And just in case any nice Jewish girls are reading this, I am disease free! And tall. And at least marginally good looking, depending on who you ask.)



Well, I hope this has been useful – I know there’s more where this came from, I’m just too tired to think of it at the moment. Now, having procrastinated for a solid 30 minutes writing this instead of studying for finals, I guess it’s time to get back to work.

26 Comments:

Blogger Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

You went to Paul Young's camp? My Chavrusa is a Rebbe there.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

So this made me laugh till I cried. Literally. And there was a point while reading the "serious case of Jew" paragraph were I actually stopped breathing for about 10 seconds, due to uncontrollable diaphragm spasms of laughter. Keep it coming. By the way, I hate PBL too. Today, on the first day of Molecules/cells/and tissues, we were expected to be able to rattle off everything in the medical literature that had ANYTHING to do with spina bifida. And I've been at this fake doctor thing for 8 weeks (MS1). Are you kidding me? Due to your helpful hints I was able to pull something reasonably intelligent-sounding out of my ass. Thanks for the tips. By the way, I'm having trouble also finding a non-gay, non-married christian guy...so, I feel your pain. If only I was Jewish.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the quality of your humor, it comes as quite a surprise that attractive, young Jewish girls aren't all over you.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey you lucky thing, we have to do PBL for THREE years, and i'm only in first atm. Sigh. and my PBL journal is due tomorrow "how have you had to change your approach to learning since beginning this course" blah blah blah *cries*

3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AND we ALL have to do each learning issue, even if we have 25 at the end of the session and even if they are very broad, like, the anatomy and physiology of the GI tract or every single bacteria/virus/parasite than can cause a GI infection
*cries once more*

3:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PBL isn't too bad if it is well implemented. You should have very narrow questions, you should all do all the learning issues, and only issues all should do should be the ones all agree need to be done.

My only regrets about PBL is that some people were free-loaders who didn't put the effort in and only some of them were caught out at the moment.

There are far worse things in life, and far far worse things in medicine.

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your post. At our medical school we have MANDATORY PBL that is 1/2 (2-3 days a week) of our entire curriculum, and what we learn there translates into 60% of our final exam for each Organ System Unit.

I can honestly say that PBL is the worst educational invention that I have ever had the misfortune of coming into contact with.

I wish you all the best now that you finally get to leave the hell I will continue to be in for the next three years.

3:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah pbl, the cries of med students across the continent are in vain. to slay the thousand pound gorilla would mean administration would have to give a monkey's uncle what students thought, and alas that is not the case

I would be ok with it if they told me at the beginning of first year that it's bogus but someone on top of the food chain who hasn't been laid for a decade is taking it out on us, but they try to sell it like coke and a lapdance. it's not going to make me rethink my entire life, it's not going to open doors of learning i never thought possible, it's not going to get me high and give me a blowjob for chrissake. We've studied notes for the past 10 years, just give me the notes, get some slightly racist white dude to give a presentation, and let me live my life in peace

I agree that the only way to make it work is to have fun with it. know the limits, and screw around with them for screwing with you (within reason). I'll make sure to do research on how marijuana can solve every case, and when the precep gives me the stinkeye for checking out the blonde walking across the hall instead of checking the dictionary for the 70th manifestation of lupus I'll give him a wink and ask for clarification on the definition of life science

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahaha, lol, thanks man i needed that. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, just 6 more PBL's and I'm done! Ok, now back to my PBL,lol.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a list of medical schools who rely heavily on the PBL model? Not just 25 percent of learning is PBL, etc.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Buy Steroids said...

Very funny and hope it will be useful for novices))

6:51 AM  
Anonymous Amar said...

Lol, I wanted to do PBL, but after this I'm not so sure, would you recommend it over integrated do you think?

10:21 AM  
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1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PBL is still a million times better than LBL. Even with 12 hours of sleep I still end up a slobbering mess in my chair in the middle of lectures. It's just so goddam boring and with no activity from yourself it all becomes background noise.

Thank god I remember keywords for exams somehow because if I was actually tested properly I would be so screwed. Surgical internship in NYC here I come...

7:51 AM  
Anonymous viagra online said...

I have noticed that there are more problems in the classroom each day! It is a good idea to assess not only oneself as a teacher but also the students' behavor so that we can look for possible solutions.

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