Postcards from Helsinki: Top tips from the AMEE med ed conference

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BSMS had the highest representation yet at AMEE 2017 – one of the largest international conferences in medical education. Ten of us joined almost 4000 other educators in Helsinki to present papers and posters on our research, and run a popular conference workshop “Technology Enhanced Learning… For Dummies!”. There was much to learn but here are some personal take-home reflections:

Dr Claire Smith
  • I was struck by the diversity of experiences across the world, yet also by the similarities of issues facing HEIs
  • There exists such a position as Director of Virtual Human Anatomy rather than ‘Head of Anatomy’ – could I be virtual?!
  • Also noticed the friendless of everyone and the ease of talking to new people
  • Top Tip: Get to session rooms early to get a seat – for many sessions I sat on the floor!
  • Presenting at an international conference with colleagues from so many countries made me focus on ensuring my poster presentation was accessible those for whom English is not their first language. However, I was deeply impressed by how many people spoke flawless medical English when this wasn’t their first language!
  • Attending a debate on the necessity of human cadaveric dissection in teaching anatomy teaching encouraged me to reflect on how much of what we teach is because ‘that’s just the way that it is done’ – we need to question the status quo and keep pushing the boundaries of educational practice.
  • There is much value in the time spent having informal discussions with colleagues over the local brew!

Dr Nikki Dearnley

Dr Jim Price

I was privileged to attend a two significant international Medical Educational Conferences on behalf of BSMS in 2017, both at Helsinki in August:

Faculty Development: Affirming Global Connections and Advancing Diversity

  • We need to take the concept of ‘Faculty Development’ much more seriously in the UK, as they do in other countries, notably the USA.
  • We need to ‘look outwards’ and embrace collaborative approaches, both in educational research and in models of Faculty Development.
  • We need to consider a ‘Core Curriculum’ for Faculty Development for medical and clinical educators which has, as yet, not been articulated in the UK.

The Power to Surprise: AMEE Annual Conference 2017

  • Think about using alternative methods to teach clinical practice – for example the AMEE Fringe included a session on “Celebration of Knowledge: Singing and Dancing in a large, undergraduate classroom” – with real singing and dancing – excellent!
  • The symposium on “Wicked Issues in Contemporary Medical Education” – emphasised the importance of uncertainty and complexity in the clinical teaching domain. How should we all incorporate this into our teaching practice?
  • Lastly, there were numerous presentations on the ‘Flipped Classroom’, but I think we all need to reflect calmly on how much digital learning should interface with face-to-face discussion and conversation. The ‘blended learning’ debate is still alive and kicking!

Also, the BSMS team made many presentations, posters and orals, and in particular a Conference Workshop on “Technology Enhanced Learning… For Dummies!” which received excellent reviews and evaluation, and has now been accepted as a prestigious ‘Pre-Conference Workshop’ for AMEE 2018.

  • This was my first experience of such a large conference – it felt quite overwhelming
  • Giving a chaired and timed poster presentation was harder than I expected. You have to be concise and have an audience but I was very please with mine though!
  • Lots of people to talk too, and lots of great food, including elk and reindeer!
  • Top tip: Avoid creating an e-poster – I went to one session and they turned out to be not what I expected, more difficult to interpret and not necessarily any more advantageous than a traditional hard-copy poster.

CJ Taylor

Tim Vincent
  • There is annual growth in mention of digital teaching and learning tools – virtual patients and simulation, video-based resources, fully online courses, mobile learning. The number of students and juniors developing digital learning resources is impressive.
  • Despite the existence of online participation, physical attendance at conferences is clearly still extremely popular. Although one does question whether the self-perpetuating ‘international conference machine’ exists more for the industry than professional development, I am encouraged that the value of meeting in person remains a strong draw. As with lectures, I don’t think face-to-face will disappear; but I do think it should be less prohibitively expensive with more rigorous content…
  • Fringe sessions provide excellent value – these are where you can really get some practical teaching tips delivered in an engaging way (thanks Becky!)
  • Drinks in Helsinki are incredibly expensive (one gin = €11!) Should we try this in the UK to improve alcohol-related disease??
  • Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (CPT) – The largest study to date on CPT teaching showed there is a wide variation in quantity and quality of CPT education across the EU. Compared to other medical schools, I thought how forward-thinking BSMS is, with a well taught curriculum, amble prescribing practice, the digital formulary SmartDrug.
  • Interprofessional Education (IPE) – There was a rich IPE theme at AMEE. I was particularly impressed with the well-established IPE initiative between Robert Gordon Pharmacy School and Dundee Medical School where students learn together on interprofessional ward rounds. We could seek inspiration from our Scottish colleagues.
  • Swimming in the Icelandic waters is bracing!

Lelia Bissell


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