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Problem solving vs. Memorizing in med school

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by baylor21, Dec 17, 1999.

  1. To any premed/med student who can respond:

    It is my understanding that nearly all med school courses are just sheer memorization.
    Is that true or just a mistaken notion?

    Is PBL still a novel phenomnenon or is it catching on at most med schools?

    In general, does a med professor really add anything to the class or is it basically just a re-hash of the info/facts in the book?
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  3. Thalamus

    Thalamus Member 10+ Year Member

    Nov 6, 1999
    Az. usa
    I have the same questions!
    I've noticed some of the schools offer both curriculum. One of the other strings inferred that the PBL students score significantly on board exams.
    Anyone out there have any experience with this?
  4. Thalamus

    Thalamus Member 10+ Year Member

    Nov 6, 1999
    Az. usa
    Oops, sorry. Too early and no coffee yet this morning...
    That should have read 'score significantly lower'
  5. turtleboard

    turtleboard SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Jun 3, 1999
    New York, New York
    You know when I was premed I always thought that medical school was mainly problem solving with some memorization here and there (just the facts). But now that I've been a first-year med student for about four months, I can tell you that med school is ALL memorization with the OCCASSIONAL problem solving activity (that relies on your being able to recall facts).

    PBL is something that's catching on at most medical schools. Practically every med school in the country has some form of PBL, so you're not going to escape it. The only one I've heard of that doesn't have PBL (yet), I believe, is NYCOM.

    Professors in (my) medical school give the SAME lectures in the SAME format in the SAME style year after year. They very generally gloss over the stuff in texts and what they give out as lecture notes. It's sometimes important to attend, just so you hear it a billion times, but if you can make do without going, then you don't really have to.

    As for doing poorer on boards because of PBL, that's one notion that was proven in some study. I actually don't have any experience with that, but I'll be sure to complain about it once I do. [​IMG]

    Tim of New York City.
  6. Ian Wong

    Ian Wong Member 10+ Year Member

    Dec 5, 1999
    BC, Canada
    Looks like I'll have to stick up for the PBL/Hybrid system here. UBC, the school where I'm currently in first year, switched over from a fully didactic (lecture-based) curriculum to a hybrid (PBL/didactic) combination three years ago.

    The word from a couple of third year students who decided to write the step 1 of the USMLE, done at the end of second year, is that they got slain on some sections, notably pharmacology, where UBC no longer has a didactic course.

    However, these same third year students are apparently nearly indistinguishable from the fourth year students in terms of their ability to problem-solve, and reason out situations on the wards.

    This is a huge over-generalization, but the fourth years generally have all the knowledge (memorized rote lists) but the inability to apply it. The third years in contrast, have less knowledge, but are more motivated to speak up, ask questions, and problem-solve out convoluted diagnoses with their tutors.

    Myself, I really like this PBL/hybrid system. Stuff I learn in PBL really sticks because I had to defend my reasoning and interpretation in front of seven inquisitive and intelligent class-mates. In addition, PBL forces you to do research. People in my PBL group use Harrison's, the Merck Manual, an innumerable number of textbooks, medical libraries, journals, and the internet. And I'm only four months into the curriculum.

    Contrast this to the spoon-fed lecture material, half of which has already been forgotten...

    In my clinical years, I'm unlikely to remember or care that a zonula adherens cell-cell junction uses catenins as their plaque proteins, but I'm damn sure going to need the ability to research and reason out answers to problems I haven't seen before.

    Now, back to memorizing... [​IMG]

    Ian, MS1
  7. avi newman

    avi newman Member 10+ Year Member

    Oct 29, 1999
    new york, new york
    all this schooling i have had makes my cyncism worse, not better...everytime i hear a teacher tell the class he or she wants to teach us how to think,that teacher winds up requiring us to memorize pages 37-184 in the dayton, ohio phone book (in reverse)!!!...regards...avi......quick!!!! name three funcions of cytochrone p450!!...and on and on it goes, until we reach our graves....a.

    avi newman

  8. OldManDave

    OldManDave Fossil Bouncer Emeritus Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Feb 26, 1999
    Lafayette, IN
    It is a mix of memorization/problem solving. Of course, the more stuff you can learn as a dynamic & intergrated process, the better off you will be in the long run. However, it's simply not possible to do so due to the pace at which we move. Plus, as is characteristic of a bunch of competitive overachievers, we focus on what we feel we did not master instead of on how much we have absorbed. Whenever I really stop and think about how much I have learned or catch myself trying to explain something to someone, it becomes very apparent that much of what I thought I had merely memorized was actually learned.

    Most schools seem to incorporate PBL to some degree. My school, KCOM, has revised [my class is the first one thru the new curriculum] its curriculum to increase the PBL content and plans to further increase it.

    As far as professor contribution, i can only answer for KCOM. But, the majority of our professors add an immense depth to the textual materials. Of course, there are also the exceptions...those that have ZERO personality tend to also suck as a lecturer. We are lucky in that class attendance is neither required nor taken. So, when one of the "duds" are lecturing, I generally go off to myself and study solo.

    'Old Man Dave'
    KCOM, Class of '03

    Nothing Risked, Nothing Gained!!

  9. drusso

    drusso Physician Moderator Emeritus Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Nov 21, 1998
    Over the rainbow
    I have to say that my experience was that the first two years of medical school was mostly memorization. However, like OldManDave, since I've been on rotations I'm amazed sometimes to discover how much of what I memorized actually sunk in.

    Some people have compared learning medicine to learning a new language. I think that there is some merit to this metaphor. View the first two years of medical school as a giant vocabulary lesson aimed at getting you oriented to a new language. The second two years is when you learn some grammar and actually start constructing simple sentences. Finally, residency is the time when you may actually be able to converse conversationally.

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