BeST Resident on-line training offers virtual university of surgical learning content for doctor students

Boston 01 April 2002Each year fewer medical students in the United States choose to become surgeons because of the severe lifestyle sacrifices required of surgical residents and by the profession. To help improve the daily lives of surgical residents and stem a growing crisis in surgical education, Harvard Medical International (HMI), the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), and Intuition, an e-learning company, have together created Basic electronic Surgical Training (BeST) Resident, the first international comprehensive on-line surgical training programme.


BeST Resident has been launched in the United States at the Surgical Education Week, the joint annual meeting of the Association for Surgical Education and the Association of Programme Directors in Surgery in Baltimore, which was held April 1-6th.

Surgical residency applications have declined significantly in recent years. In this year's match results, released March 21st, the number of United States medical graduates who matched surgical residencies dropped from 821 last year to 782. This is because of the demands of surgical residencies, demands which can leave young physicians overworked, overwhelmed and without time for personal lives or in-depth study, according to William Silen, MD, Johnson & Johnson Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Emeritus, Harvard Medical School. When there is time between cases, "contemplative reading and diagnostic problem-solving are replaced with a furtive search of the Internet while waiting for a case to start in the operating room", Dr. Silen stated.

Reviewed and approved by nearly 200 Harvard Medical School and RCSI faculty members and designed specifically for the Web, BeST Resident contains everything first year residents need to know to look after their patients and prepare for the in-service exams. Engaging, interactive and accessible anytime, any place, BeST Resident gives real time availability and immediacy to textbook-depth and journal-breadth content using all the potential of multimedia and the Web.

Using BeST, residents on a break between cases can choose to review background on an upcoming procedure by clicking on the relevant section. They can then scan the underlying anatomy or pathology, tune into a colourful animation, test their patient management skills on realistic clinical scenarios, or test themselves on in-service exam style questions and receive feedback to guide further study.

Residents on the run can review high yield quick facts or print out cue cards, charts, graphs, and illustrations for later review. When they have more time, such as when they are studying at home, they can link to the latest journal articles in an on-line library. Residents can also participate in on-line discussion groups with other residents and faculty. Faculty can monitor a resident's progress and performance on-line, make suggestions for further review, and create customised courses.

"This Internet delivered curriculum provides surgical residents and trainees with a virtual university of surgical learning content, and furthermore is a tremendous support for surgical faculty", stated Michael Horgan, Deputy Chief Executive of RCSI. "They can more easily keep updated on each resident's progress and can do so in a way that is convenient for them as well as for the student surgeon."

From a broader perspective, HMI leaders see this type of curriculum as leveling the global playing field in medicine. "The Internet is really a wonderful educational tool because it overcomes distance to bring world-class education to the broadest possible audience", noted Robert Crone, MD, president and CEO of Harvard Medical International. "Over time, this on-line training technique could significantly help to lessen differences in medical standards which currently exist between countries and make it easier for health professionals to access the same quality of education in different parts of the world."

Launched in Ireland last summer, BeST Resident was reviewed and revised by Harvard faculty to meet the American in-service exam requirements. Last year, BeST won the International EMMA award for Excellence in Digital Media Content Creation in the On-line Training Category, and another prestigious award, the United States Distance Learning Association for Excellence in Distance Learning for 2001.

IntuMed BeST Resident is the first medical education programme to emerge from IntuMed, the partnership established by HMI, RCSI, and Intuition to develop and deliver e-learning programmes for the medical and allied health care professions. Based in Boston and Dublin, IntuMed harnesses the significant editorial and content resources of RCSI and Harvard Medical School as well as Intuition's pre-eminent instructional design and software capability.

Leslie Versweyveld

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