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Senior Medical Students: An Untapped Resource?

The Medical Education Pathway: Description and Early Outcomes of a Student-as-Teacher Program. Song C et al. Academic Medicine. 2015 Apr;90(4):458-61. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000548.

Reviewed by Nicholas Martin

What was the study question?
Some medical students matriculate with an interest in teaching and are given opportunities as senior medical students to teach fellow students. Such teaching experiences can be varied due to inconsistent feedback and lack of supervision. The purpose of this article is to describe the development, design and initial outcomes of a highly structured student-as-teacher (SAT) program at one medical institution.

How was the study done?
The SAT program allows students interested in becoming educators the opportunity to refine teaching skills and develop identities as educators. The SAT program was designed by a committee of educators and receives financial and administrative support. Students are selected after completing a detailed two-phase application process. The SAT program curriculum includes leading large-group lectures, small group teaching sessions, problem-based learning cases and journal clubs. In preparation for teaching, students attend mandatory workshops, which parallel the institution’s faculty development series. Throughout the SAT program, students receive feedback on their performance from a designated mentor, the course director and an online evaluation system. With faculty guidance, the student is expected to incorporate the feedback received into future teaching sessions.

What were the results?
Eighty-nine students have been accepted into the SAT program, with 49 completing the course and 40 currently enrolled. As a direct result of the SAT program, medical education has been enhanced through the development of new lecture topics, small-group activities and curriculum development activities. Also included are several comments highlighting student feedback on participants’ lectures and participant’s comments on the program’s contribution to personal career development.

What are the implications of these findings?
Implications of a well-developed SAT program remain unclear, however, the article outlines an approach to successfully implementing such a program. Other institutions hoping to create their own SAT program can use this model as a potential building block. A future analysis comparing SAT program participant’s career development to their peers would be of interest.

Editor’s Note: This well structured curriculum has the potential to benefit not only the students who participate, but also the residency programs they attend (and potentially the students who work under those residents as well). It will be interesting to follow its progress over time (JG).

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