Summary: Professor Harden’s latest blog discusses a recent trip to Epsom, UK, for an American University of the Caribbean Board meeting, final preparations for AMEE 2014 and an interesting blog by Stephen Downes. Description: I took part last week in an American University of the Caribbean (AUC) Board meeting in Epsom.  This was the first meeting of the Board to be held in the UK and recognised that students for part of their clinical training complete clerkships in the UK including at Epsom.  I was impressed by how well the students are looked after and the clinical experiences and teaching they receive.  Staff report that the AUC students are a pleasure to work with and are highly motivated.  Students from St George’s London also complete clinical clerkships at Epsom.  Staff told me that there were significant differences in the two cohorts.  The AUC students had a more in-depth and greater understanding of the basic medical sciences, while the St George’s students had more clinical experience.  I think this probably reflects the greater emphasis in the UK on vertical integration with more clinical experiences being gained in the early years.  Interesting questions arise as to whether the AUC students will be able to compensate for their relatively less clinical experience and whether the St George’s students in the spirit of vertical integration and integration of the basic sciences in the clinical years will continue to expand their knowledge of the basic sciences.  It does raise, however, also the question of how much basic science is necessary.  One evening we went to the Epsom racetrack where the Derby is held.  This was the first time I had seen a horse race live.  The person who was introducing us to what was happening was interested to hear of the relation between the racetrack and medical education.  The world curriculum from the Greek for racetrack was first introduced at the University of Glasgow in the early 17th century when students complained that the professors were simply reading in their lectures random sections from texts and what they needed was a more formal course around which they could build their studies.

On the World Association of Medical Editors listserv there has been a discussion as to whether an editorial could have more than one author.  The conclusion – it all depends.  George Lundberg noted that once at JAMA the entire Board of Trustees of the AMA were invited to be co-authors of an editorial in a strong anti-tobacco theme issue.  This had to do with attempting to prevent legal action by big-tobacco against the journal.  I would like to think this is not a problem with editorials in Medical Teacher!

We are now in the final stages of preparation for AMEE 2014 in Milan with almost 3,400 participants registered to date.  Anyone unable to join us in Milan can take part in the meeting at a distance.  We have expanded the facilities offered for AMEE 2014 Live Online from those offered last year.  One of the new features at AMEE 2014 will be the adoption of a ‘flipped classroom’ model for one of the Research in Medical Education paper sessions.  Conference participants attending the session will be expected to have studied the five papers to be presented prior to attending the session.  At the session itself, instead of a ten minute presentation followed by five minutes discussion, there will be a one to two minute introduction followed by 13-14 minutes discussion time.  We have allowed 15 minutes at the end of the session to discuss how the model works in practice.  It is interesting to see the different type of material that the five presenters and their co-authors have produced to inform participants before they attend the session.  These will be available online for participants to look at from next week.

I will be interested at the ESME reunion session at AMEE 2014 to hear reports from ESME participants as to how participation in an ESME course has influenced their teaching practice.  Many have been stimulated to want to continue further with studies in medical education and we will also be highlighting at the meeting some of the opportunities now available to them.  The University of Flinders in Australia and the University of Liverpool in the UK now recognise ESME credits towards studies for a master degree in medical education.  The ESME Certificate in Medical Education is also recognised now by the University of Hong Kong and Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Chile.  The ESME certificate is also the first stage in the fellowship programme of the International Association for Medical Science Educators.
I have referred in previous blogs to the blog by Stephen Downes.  This I find provides a useful insight into education technology.  In his blog of 28 July he refers to the Hechinger Report in which a feature by Annie Murphy Paul looks at self-directed learning and tells the story of Bill Gates.  She reports that ‘when Bill Gates was still a teenager, he would sneak out of his family’s house before dawn and ride his bike to a building on the campus of the University of Washington.  He had discovered that the university’s huge supercomputers were idle between the hours of three and six in the morning, allowing the budding computer enthusiast to teach himself how to program – night after night, until the sun came up. We hope that Stephen Downes will be a guest speaker at the e-Learning meeting immediately prior to AMEE 2014 in Glasgow, UK. I look forward to meeting in person and to hear him speak.

The weather in Dundee over the last two weeks has been dry and sunny with temperatures in the 20s.  Great for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.  It has kept me busy, however, watering my garden and greenhouses.  The geraniums in particular have flourished in the sun.  Just as in education, in gardening we need to think ahead.  I have just taken about 200 geranium cuttings to produce plants for next year.