Distributed radiology clerkship for the core clinical year of medical school

Felix S Chew
Academic Medicine 2002, 77 (11): 1162-3

OBJECTIVE: The central role that diagnostic radiology has in the modern practice of medicine has not always been reflected in radiology's place in the curriculum. We developed a new radiology clerkship for undergraduate medical students during their core clinical year that was supported by Web technology. The assumptions underlying the design of the clerkship were that radiology is best learned from radiologists and that students are most receptive to learning radiology when it is related to concurrent patient care experiences.

DESCRIPTION: Beginning in May 2000, a required radiology clerkship experience was incorporated into the core clinical year at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. The core clinical year was organized into three 16-week blocks of clerkships. Two or four independent half-day radiology tutorial sessions were included with each clerkship block, and attended by all students in the block (approximately 35 students), regardless of their specific clerkship assignments. There were ten different radiology tutorials, each given three times during the year as students rotated through the clerkship blocks. Thus, each student attended a radiology tutorial session every four to eight weeks during the year. The topics covered during the tutorials were correlated with the content of the clerkship blocks and included adult and pediatric chest radiology, adult and pediatric abdominal radiology, body CT, neuroradiology, obstetric ultrasound, gynecologic ultrasound, osteoporosis, adult and pediatric fractures, mammography, and cervical spine trauma. The tutorials included pre- and post-test, lectures, case presentations, and sometimes tours of the radiology department. The educational emphasis was on pragmatic case-based learning exercises, development of verbal and visual vocabulary, and learning when and where to seek more information. To provide continuity and organization, Web-based curriculum materials were designed and implemented as a component of the clerkship. The home page of the Web site provided the schedule, faculty names, attendance and grading policies, course overview, and links to individual tutorials. The pages for individual tutorials included educational objectives, glossary of radiology terminology relevant to the subject, lecture slides and handouts, and teaching cases. All students had laptop computers and access to the academic network, but did not use them during the actual tutorial sessions.

DISCUSSION: Implementation of the radiology clerkship required extensive negotiation with directors of other clerkships so that students could be released from their other responsibilities in order to attend the radiology tutorials. The radiology clerkship format has proven to be complex in its administration, with faculty and students on different schedules commuting to the radiology lecture hall from various locations. Extensive use of e-mail and communication via the Web site have been instrumental in reminding faculty and students of upcoming sessions. Preliminary evaluations have indicated that students liked the radiology sessions and learned a great deal, but disliked the scheduling and the lack of continuity. An evaluation of the curriculum and its components is ongoing.

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