The Benefits of Multimedia Digital Learning for Continuing Medical Education

By Christopher Ugo Oseh, MBBS
December 22, 2020

Health care professionals, especially physicians, rely on continuing medical education to upgrade their knowledge and skills and stay current with advancements in their medical practice. Recent developments in internet technology and social media platforms, combined with the need for social social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are accelerating the evolution from traditional medical classrooms and conferences to digital education. Medical educators will soon find it imperative to adapt their curriculum and educational content to attract a new generation of digital learners.

This post will outline some benefits and features that make digital media like Twitter and podcasts suitable for medical education. Continue reading “The Benefits of Multimedia Digital Learning for Continuing Medical Education”

The Role of Doctors in the COVID-19 “Infodemic”

By Dr. Marwa Saleh
May 19, 2020

In late March, several news outlets1,2 ran headlines stating that hundreds of Iranians died and others went blind after drinking adulterated alcohol for protection against COVID-19—some of them were children. On a similar note, the Journal of Histopathology documented the case3 of a 41-year-old American who was hospitalized after drinking disinfectant leading to the severe injury of her small bowels.

Other stories include  a father who died of COVID-19 after delaying medical help because he believed that COVID-19 was just like the flu, and the couple5 who ingested chloroquine (not intended for human use) leading to the death of the husband and hospitalization of the wife.

The tragic incidents were the result of misinformation and these consequences aren’t rare; A WHO report6 in February stated that we were facing a “massive infodemic.” The hazards of misinformation are vivid—misinformation costs lives. Continue reading “The Role of Doctors in the COVID-19 “Infodemic””

Optimizing Motivation Theory for Medical Training: Teaching on the Wards

By Eric Gantwerker MD, MMSc (MedEd), FACS
November 15, 2018

As we take theory to practice we discuss what motivates our trainees to learn and how can we use motivational learning theory to promote deep and meaningful learning among our trainees.

Self-determination theory (SDT) purports that humans are by nature curious and have the desire to learn.1,2 SDT underlies the concept of motivation; described as a continuum from amotivation (lack of motivation) to extrinsic motivation (external rewards) to intrinsic motivation (inherent interest).3 A closely related concept is self-regulated learning (SRL), described by Zimmerman et al., that delineates the complex interplay between motivations, learning, assessment, and metacognition that impacts effective learning processes.4,5

Intrinsic motivation and SRL have been associated with deeper forms of learning, improved performance, increased interest, commitment, and satisfaction.2,3 As we take theory to practice we discuss what motivates our trainees to learn and how can we use motivational learning theory to promote deep and meaningful learning among our trainees. Strategies to foster intrinsic motivation and SRL have been tied to three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.1,2 In addition, some common practices are discussed regarding their impact on motivation and SRL. Continue reading “Optimizing Motivation Theory for Medical Training: Teaching on the Wards”

HMS Online CME Courses Approved for MAT Waiver Training

by The HMS CME Online Team
November 2018

NP and PA MAT Waiver Training

Through the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) can become waivered to prescribe buprenorphine in the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) after completing 24 hours of specialized training.

We are pleased to announce that The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has approved two of Harvard Medical School’s CME Online Opioid Use Disorder Education Program courses as fulfilling the 16-hour portion of the NP/PA 24-hour required training for waiver eligibility. These courses are: Continue reading “HMS Online CME Courses Approved for MAT Waiver Training”

Do You Need an MBA to Be a Physician Leader?

By Ted A James, MD, MHCM, FACS
September 6, 2018

…leadership skills, like any other type of skill, can be learned and improved…. More challenging, however, is the development of the personal attributes that are necessary for effective leadership.”

-Charanjit S. Rihal, MD
Chair, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Mayo Clinic

Physicians as Administrative Leaders

Physicians possess a deep understanding of what is required to optimize the process of caring for people, and health care systems that are serious about transformation need to harness the power, talent, and creativity of clinicians as organizational leaders. Toward this end, a growing number of physicians are moving into executive leadership, and organizations are experiencing the benefit of having these physicians in key roles, providing input into what is best for patients and the organization as a whole. Continue reading “Do You Need an MBA to Be a Physician Leader?”

Turning the Tide on Physician Suicide

By Ami B. Bhatt, MD, FACC
June 14, 2018

Since the two very sudden public suicide deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, society has again recognized that we never know what is under the surface of another’s façade. As physicians, these tragic occurrences emphasize that our caregiving requires seeing the entirety of an individual’s many parts.

While we acknowledge that the façade is not fake—it is but one true representation of an individual, well-curated, like pages on Facebook or Instagram—no one mourns the corporate façade created for these individuals. We mourn the fact that despite feeling we know someone, we didn’t see it coming. This is that much harder when it is a loved one, and most frightening when you might see it in yourself.  Especially, if you are a physician. Continue reading “Turning the Tide on Physician Suicide”

What Does Trauma-Informed Care Look Like?

May 11, 2018

[The following post by has been shared with us by Harvard Health Publishing where it originally appeared in April of 2018. In light of increased emphasis on engaging patients in shared decision making, we invite you to add your thoughts about, and experiences with, trauma-informed care in the comment section after reading this post.]

Trauma-informed care: What it is, and why it’s important

by Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Contributing editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Many years ago, when I was a trainee, I helped take care of patients at a family medicine clinic.* One day, a school-aged brother and sister came in for their annual physicals. Continue reading “What Does Trauma-Informed Care Look Like?”

A Primary Care Doctor Delves into the Opioid Epidemic

November 14, 2017

[The following post by Monique Tello, MD, MPH, has been shared with us by Harvard Health Publishing, having originally appeared on their website in February 2017.]

Our nephew Christopher died of a heroin overdose in October 2013. It had started with pain pills and experimentation, and was fueled by deep grief. He was charismatic, lovable, a favorite uncle, and a hero to all the children in his life. His death too young was a huge loss to our family. I have always felt that I didn’t do enough to help prevent it, and perhaps, in a way, even contributed. Continue reading “A Primary Care Doctor Delves into the Opioid Epidemic”

Clinical Reasoning: Storing Stories to Narrow the Diagnosis

By Martina McGrath, MD
October 24, 2017

Accurate clinical reasoning is central to the art of medicine, and involves complex cognitive processes that most clinicians perform unconsciously. However, teaching these skills is an essential component of developing expert clinicians. In an era of rising healthcare costs, increased access to diagnostic testing and unlimited access to knowledge, the ability to sift through large amounts of data, synthesize a clinical presentation in a meaningful way and develop a logical differential diagnosis with a focused, rational plan of evaluation, is perhaps more important than ever.1

Skilled clinical reasoning follows a series of steps, beginning (as we were all taught in medical school) with history-taking and physical examination. As the clinician talks to the patient, she begins to develop an impression of the patient’s story, known as a mental abstraction.2 This mental abstraction guides further questioning and clinical examination. After acquiring the relevant data, the clinician must develop a concise one-line summary of the findings, a ‘problem representation,’ incorporating the most important features of the case, relevant negatives, and a differential diagnosis. The problem representation is an essential step in synthesizing the data to formulate a plan of diagnosis and treatment.

A specific patient presentation can trigger recall of a memory of a previous clinical encounter, along with its associated knowledge, which may include pathophysiology, treatment, complications, etc.

Helping trainees (particularly those early in their careers) to develop accurate problem representation allows them to accurately access their stored knowledge about a particular medical problem. If the presentation is not framed appropriately, the correct information cannot be accessed, leading to increased likelihood of unfocused reasoning and diagnostic errors. Teachers should encourage learners to develop a one-line summary and then explore that summary, using open questions such as “Why do you think that?” or “What features support/do not support that conclusion?” This approach informs the teaching physician of the trainees’ thinking process, and also encourages greater engagement by the trainee in clinical reasoning. It can be very instructive if the teacher then gives their own summary and reasons aloud, illustrating how the case links to their prior experience, and demonstrating effective clinical reasoning strategies.

Experienced clinicians mentally develop personal ‘illness scripts’, a repertoire of patient stories that connect prior clinical experiences with medical knowledge, and store them as accessible memories that guide diagnostic reasoning.2,3 A specific patient presentation can trigger recall of a memory of a previous clinical encounter, along with its associated knowledge, which may include pathophysiology, treatment, complications, etc. Possession of a broad range of illness scripts allows expert clinicians to rapidly formulate a diagnosis, but also recognize atypical presentations and break down complex cases into their component parts.

Encouraging the development of a trainee’s personal repertoire of illness scripts is central to clinical training. Repeated patient interactions, particularly early in a hospitalization before all testing is complete, are critical to developing this skill.4  Each experience feeds into the knowledge base behind illness scripts. Guided discussion with an experienced clinician helps to consolidate these mental connections, and provides very valuable insights. Also when rounding on admitted patients, critical reflection helps to consolidate illness scripts, and avoids cognitive errors due to failure to challenge that initial diagnostic label as more information becomes available later.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to train with outstanding clinicians will recognize these approaches. Solving the puzzle and getting to the right treatment plan is one of the more rewarding aspects of being a medical professional, and should be a cherished skill to hand on to our future colleagues.

Learn to develop essential skills in clinical research.


  1. Cooke S, Lemay JF. Transforming Medical Assessment: Integrating Uncertainty Into the Evaluation of Clinical Reasoning in Medical Education. Acad Med. 2017 Jun;92(6):746-751. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001559.
  2. Bowen JL. Educational strategies to promote clinical diagnostic reasoning. N Engl J Med. 2006 Nov 23;355(21):2217-25.
  3. Elstein AS, Schwartz A. Clinical problem solving and diagnostic decision making: selective review of the cognitive literature. BMJ 2002;324:729-32.
  4. Simpkin AL, Vyas JM, Armstrong KA. Diagnostic Reasoning: An Endangered Competency in Internal Medicine Training. Ann Intern Med 2017;167:507-8.

Head shot of Dr. Martina McGrathDr. Martina McGrath is an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a member of the Renal Division, Department of Medicine, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both in Boston. Dr. McGrath is the former Medical Editor for the Trends in Medicine blog.




HMS Responds to the Opioid Crisis with Education

Harvard Medical School’s dean, George Daley, recently hosted a panel presentation to highlight “the transformative role that education can and should play in solving the opioid crisis.” HMS speakers at the event presented a three-pronged approach taken by the medical school to address the current epidemic of opioid use and abuse which includes educating medical students, health care professionals, and the general public. Other notable invitees spoke about health care policy in our government.

The following is a summary of the event by Dean David Roberts, one of the presenting speakers:

By David Roberts, MD
HMS Dean for External Education
October 13, 2017

On October 3rd, my colleagues Todd Griswold, Bertha Madras, and I joined Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker and HMS dean George Daley to make a presentation on Harvard Medical School’s response to the opioid crisis. The live-streamed event held at the HMS Martin Conference Center was attended by a large in-person audience with an additional remote audience of more than 6,000 viewers.

For my part, I presented on the great work Harvard Medical School teams are doing creating free online learning resources for clinicians, recovery coaches, first responders, and family members who are wrestling with the opioid crisis every day. Continue reading “HMS Responds to the Opioid Crisis with Education”