Summary: After a recent trip to Chicago Professor Harden offers advice on what to do for two hours at USA immigration and an update on the abstracts submitted for AMEE 2014. Description: I am just back from a 24-hour visit to Chicago to attend an AUC Board meeting. An excellent flight across with British Airways, but arrived to find the arrival hall full and a more than two hour wait to clear immigration. Unfortunately, the one-stop clearance for passengers with hand luggage only was closed and many of the immigration booths were unattended. Of the hundreds of passengers waiting, I must have been the only one who decided to make use of the time and I drafted a paper I was working on using my hand luggage as a mobile seat.

Before I left for Chicago and on my return, a major task was to review more than 2,000 abstracts submitted for AMEE 2014 in Milan, each of which had been reviewed by two external referees. This is always an interesting experience as it provides an update on what is on today’s agenda in medical education. Three topics that appeared prominently this year were peer-assisted learning, empathy, and interprofessional education. The OSCE was by far the most common topic for papers on assessment. Most of the papers on the basic sciences related to teaching and learning anatomy and almost none were on physiology or biochemistry. It is interesting to speculate why this is so. On returning from Chicago I attended the regular Medical Teacher editorial meeting. Looking at the 26 or so manuscripts each week, I have a range of emotions. The activities described, the results, or the views expressed may be of interest and even occasionally fascinating and exciting; some papers that are badly written or poorly presented are frustrating. I found one this week particularly moving. It was a contribution by a fourth-year student and a retired professor, each telling their experience when the student met in the hospital ward the professor who had been admitted as an emergency. It gave me powerful insight into doctor/patient interactions. I think you will find it of interest to read when it appears in Medical Teacher in a summer issue. It illustrates beautifully how simple actions during patient care can promote humanism and patient centeredness in medicine.

I have referred in previous blogs to the unflinching and informed critique of medicine and medical education by Des Spence, a GP from Glasgow, UK, in his weekly column in the British Medical Journal. As Fiona Godlee, editor in chief, writes in an editorial, he has offended many, but inspired far more and has been a blast of “dissent against the prevailing wisdom”. Another Glasgow GP, Margaret McCartney, will now contribute to a weekly column. From McCartney’s previous contributions to the BMJ, I suspect she will also share challenging views. Is there something special about Glasgow GPs? I look forward to reading her column.

This week saw the start of our Essential Skills in Medical Education (ESME) Online Course with 104 participants from 24 countries. Each two-week module starts with a live online webinar. To date we have used very successfully the Wimba platform, but this is being withdrawn later this year by Blackboard who took it over a couple of years ago. We are currently researching the best alternative. Online learning was the subject of a MedEdWorld webinar, "Using design-based research to underpin the ongoing improvement of a hybrid mobile-web learning environment in health professional education", led by Frank Bate and Carole Steketee, University of Notre Dame, Australia. They described the use of a design-based research approach to the course implemented. A recording is available at

Pat Thomson in her blog of March 27, argues that social media is playing a very particular role in blurring the current boundaries as to what counts as academic research, writing, and publishing. She says, “We can write tentatively in online contexts, exploring ideas in ways that are much more difficult within the essay/thesis industry or in conventional academic journals.” She highlights the views about academic writing expressed in Gerald Raunig’s most recent book, “Factories of Knowledge, Industries of Creativity” (2013). Raunig criticises academic publishing, “The chief means for taming wild writing is the academic journal, particularly in its peer-reviewed form. Originally introduced as a way of enhancing objectivity the peer review has long since become an instrument of (self) government, and as such bolsters existing structures and encourages their system of inclusion and exclusion.”
Trevor Gibbs has just returned from China where he was promoting AMEE and engaging in a number of educational activities.
For the last two years he has been teaching individual cohorts of Futian GPs (40 at a time) basic medical education. The number has reached about 300 now and they are supposed to be the GP trainers of the future. The organisers and directors have decided to join AMEE this year as institutional members.

I leave for Ottawa later in the month for the Ottawa Conference on Assessment in the Healthcare professions. This will address a wide range of topic relating to assessment in the healthcare professions. The local hosts have done a great job in the organisation and Pat Lilley has worked closely with them. Apart from the scientific programme, there has been interesting discussions on the role of early morning jogs, yoga classes, massage chairs and also about the practicality of paying $250 for each kosher lunch ordered. Why this is so expensive in Ottawa remains a mystery. One of the topics to be discussed at the conference will be the situation judgment test. In the UK, this has been introduced to assess the fitness of UK graduates to take up their first medical post. To be employed, a graduate is required to pass the examination. The standard for failing has been set as four standard deviations below the mean. I haven’t yet been able to see an explanation as to why this approach to standard setting has been adopted, particularly when the aim is to assess fitness to practice. Perhaps I will learn more about it in Ottawa.

If you will be in Ottawa for the Ottawa Conference, I look forward to meeting with you; we have an AMEE stand in the exhibit hall. During the conference there will also be meetings of the ASPIRE and BEME Boards and a symposium with David Wilkinson and Trudie Roberts on the ASPIRE initiative recognising excellence the area of assessment in a medical school. One of the highlights of the meeting will be a reunion for the 60 or so participants who attended one of the very early Ottawa Conferences in the 1980s and 1990s.