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Joint Meeting of the Federation of European Physiological Societies and the Austrian Physiological Society

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09/13/2017 - Hall C2 | 10:30am - 12:30pm 
Teaching Symposium: ”Has Physiology the right to exist in a 21th century Medical Curriculum“

Chair: G. van der Vusse (Maastricht, The Netherlands); G. Andries (Maastricht, The Netherlands)

Physiology in a classical curriculum in the 21st century: Flexner 2.0
*Levente  Kiss1
1 Semmelweis University, Department of Physiology, Budapest, Hungary
Abstract text :

The Flexner Report of 1910 resulted in an immense transformation of medical education in many parts of the world as scientific prowess became the holy grail of medical universities. In the utilitarian sense this change provided enormous therapeutical benefits to the patients. However it came with many unwanted side effects: (1) patients became seen as malfunctioning systems to be fixed without emphasis on treating the person; (2) less importance were given to the quality assurance of teaching; (3) medical education started to focus more on mortality abandoning morbidity; (4) publications were pursued so much that many became unreliable. These effects eroded the trust and respect of the medical profession and started to erode the stance of science as well. The newly available technological advances that enabled patients to quickly gain a superficial insight into any medical topic strengthened this trend as well. The same technological advances and the increased number of students put further pressure on the universities" teaching methods.  Clearly, all these necessitated a realignment of the flexnerian route.

Semmelweis University, which traditionally has an emphasis on teaching firm scientific reasoning, is addressing these challenges with a set of new policies but we argue that it is possible and even favorable to counter the flexnerian side effects with having the fundamental sciences still visible and influential. These departments  are pivotal in teaching scientific thinking and decreasing their influence would be counterintuitive in an era when uncritical thinking is becoming widespread.

The lecture describes the steps being taken at Semmelweis and describes the position of Physiology in this "Flexner 2.0" curriculum.

Structural and functional integration of physiology teaching: the view from Cardiff
*Sarah Hall1
1 Cardiff University, School of Biosciences, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Abstract text :

Physiology teaching can benefit from the erosion of traditional boundaries between life science disciplines. The original Physiology department at Cardiff University now forms part of a multi-disciplinary School of Biosciences; this arrangement has generated opportunities for colleagues with different backgrounds and expertise to work together to develop physiology teaching. 

Our medical curriculum has evolved from a traditional approach with clear distinctions between basic sciences and clinical training, through a systems-based curriculum, to, more recently, a fully integrated case-based approach, where scientists and clinicians work together to ensure that students' understanding of basic science and clinical skills are developed in a cohesive manner. This has provided an opportunity to highlight the relevance of physiology as a keystone of medicine and to embed physiological concepts and principles into clinical thinking.  Our Physiology degree programme has also developed to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of modern physiology and the curriculum now benefits from the contributions of colleagues across the School of Biosciences.  This arrangement supports provision of research-led teaching and allows individual staff to work collegially and teach to their strengths.  Wider choice in the content of their degrees has also allowed Physiology students to tailor their degree to reflect their specific interests and led to wider inclusion of physiology components in related degree schemes.

This talk will address the benefits and limitations of teaching physiology within an integrated curriculum and will evaluate the consequences of this approach at Cardiff University.

Organizational consequences of discipline-oriented versus integrated teaching
*Mirjam G.A. oude Egbrink1
1 Maastricht University, Physiology, Maastricht, Netherlands
Abstract text :

Medical education in its classical form is teacher-oriented and organized by discipline. Subjects are taught in a non-integrative way with a clear separation between disciplines such as physiology and anatomy. The focus is on theoretical knowledge and not on skills or competences. In this system, departments are organized around disciplines, and they are responsible for the content and organization of their own disciplinary courses. The chair of a department is accountable for the quality of these courses, while (a member of) the board of the medical school monitors and supervises the content and quality of the whole medical curriculum.

Over the last decades, an increasing number of medical schools have changed their medical curriculum in such a way that theoretical and practical education is integrated. A well-known example for such an integrated approach is problem-based learning (PBL). PBL curricula are characterized by active, student-centered learning in a multidisciplinary setting. Education is no longer organized by single departments and disciplines, but by committees and planning groups consisting of staff members of different preclinical and clinical departments. Inevitably, this means more central governance and reduced autonomy of the departments. A central management team or structure is required to commission and oversee all educational activities that together constitute the curriculum and to monitor the educational performance of staff members of all participating departments. In some universities, this change is accompanied by a transition from discipline-oriented to integrated departments. The potential (dis)advantages and consequences of such a transition will be discussed during the presentation.