Summary: This fortnight Professor Harden looks ahead to the Ottawa 2014 Conference and praises the most recent MedEdWorld webinars. Description: I have just returned from Kuala Lumpur where I attended the International Medical University (IMU) Academic Council meeting and the International Medical Education Conference (IMEC 2014) which had as its theme this year Interprofessional Education.  I was reminded that at a previous meeting in Kuala Lumpur a colleague from Miami had told me about the High-tech treasure hunt in which she had engaged during her visit to Kuala Lumpur.  Geocaching is the art of hunting for treasure using your favourite GPS-enable gadget or smartphone.  During her visit to Kuala Lumpur the challenge had been for her to track down hidden items (caches) using nothing but GPS coordinates.  By visiting a geocaching website she was able to obtain access to clues to the whereabouts of caches in Kuala Lumpur, including the locations GPS coordinates.  She found this a great way to explore a city.  The caches themselves are objects that have been placed out of sight in a public area by other geocaching enthusiasts.  There are various types of cache, but they usually take the shape of a small waterproof container – a Tupperware box or a 35mm film tube, perhaps with items inside it.  The ‘treasure’ is usually of negligible value; it’s more of a symbolic prize.  For finding a cache you can either put it back or replace it with something of your own.  Should we encourage geocaching for AMEE 2014 in Milan?  Geocaching websites are,, and

At IMEC 2014 with the theme of Interprofessional Education (IPE) some of the speakers and conference participants were obsessed with the question, does interprofessional education work or not, rather than which aspects of interprofessional learning can contribute to the learning outcomes of the school.  In my opening plenary I suggested that it is helpful to consider interprofessional education as different steps on a ladder, in the same way as I previously published for integrated teaching and learning, with isolation at the bottom end and trans- professional education at the top.  I argued that both extreme points in the ladder were unrealistic and the question was not whether one was in favour or against interprofessional learning but where one should be on the ladder.  The second problem I identified with examples was that interprofessional education may be implemented inappropriately.  We were told at the meeting that a £6 million ambitious interprofessional education project in Southampton had been seriously criticised by the General Medical Council in the UK and that the medical school had withdrawn from it.  There were lessons to be learned, however, from the experience.  It seems to me that interprofessional education is more successful when it is embedded in the curriculum as part of courses, rather than scheduled as separate interprofessional education courses.  

There were also some interesting presentations on other themes at the meeting.  The IMU Ron Harden Innovation in Medical Education award was made this year to Romesh Nalliah and co-workers from Harvard School of Dental Medicine, USA.  He demonstrated how a micro-blog facilitated clinical case discussions by students.  Students were encouraged to identify learning moments during their clinical experience and share these moments with others.  Nalliah and colleagues evaluated 200 micro posts, each with an average of 160 words.  Sixty five per cent related to clinical tips.  Students were reported as enjoying using the online medium to reflect on work and reported that they were using the micro-blogs as a database of knowledge.  While it was seen as a good example of peer learning, the need for some faculty supervision to ensure that the information being discussed was reliable was also emphasised.

The final Ottawa 2014 Conference programme is being finalised this week and Pat is working closely with the organisers in Ottawa, coordinating the arrangements for the Ottawa Conference and the Canadian Medical Education Conference.  More than 2,000 have already registered.  We have organised a reunion for Ottawa Conference participants who took part in the early Ottawa Conferences up to 1990.  I was interested to note from the registrations for Ottawa 2014 that eight had delivered a paper at the first Ottawa conference in 1985.  

There have been two interesting webinars in the last couple of weeks, one by Elza Mylona on Effective Faculty Leadership in Organisational Change.  Several people have commented on the useful list she described as to what to look for in an innovation.  A recording is on the MedEdWorld website.  There was also the second of the Dialogues in Medical Education new series with an active discussion between Stewart Mennin and Kevin Eva on What happened to inquiry and explanation in medical education? This is also available on the MedEdWorld website.

The School of Medicine at the University of Dundee have established an annual Ronald Harden lecture.  I delivered the inaugural lecture last night in the new lecture theatre at Ninewells Hospital.  This has been designed to accommodate team-based learning.  I was delighted to meet with many of my former colleagues at a reception after the lecture.  Following this a small group had dinner on the RRS Discovery which now has a home and also an exhibition centre in Dundee.  The photograph is one of me at the helm on the Discovery Prof-at-the-helm.png.  In my lecture I challenged the stakeholders in medicine to look over the next decade at the need for more fundamental change in medical education.  Prior to my lecture I had the opportunity to hear presentations from some Dundee students who had completed a medical education fellowship over the previous summer.  Students are funded to undertake a project over six weeks.  I was very impressed with the high standards of the presentations, the work that had been done and the students’ passion and interest in medical education.  I also had a chance to listen to some impressive studies by PhD students in medical education.  Dundee now also offers as part of the medical course an intercalated degree in medical education and six students took this up last year.  This is all very encouraging for the future of medical education.  Jean Ker who organised my programme also showed me the new simulated ward and general practice.  Students are assessed in the ward every year of the course from first year.  I was impressed with what I saw and two things struck me.  Returning to my earlier comments on IPE, the simulated ward is IPE in action with students assessed on team-working and collaboration as part of an overall clinical assessment.  Secondly, this assessment could be the basis for a progress test on clinical skills.