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Fostering the ongoing connectedness of health professions educators committed to transforming health care delivery and education.

Eric Gantwerker

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Eric Gantwerker MD, MS, MMSc (MedEd) (Educators ’15, Leaders ’15) is a graduate of the MMSc in Medical Education Program at Harvard Medical School. His expertise is in educational technology, faculty development, motivational theory, and the cognitive psychology of learning. He is currently working clinically in Chicago as a pediatric otolaryngologist as well as serving as the Vice President, Medical Director of a technology company called Level Ex.


You can follow Dr. Gantwerker on Twitter @DrEricGant.

Pushing the Envelope: Ways Technology Can Extend the Limits of Possibility in Medical Education

The technology landscape has changed a great deal even since my first Harvard Macy blog post back in 2015. As computing power increases exponentially, we are seeing many of the technologies that were previously thought to be science fiction coming to fruition. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks, blockchain technology, augmented reality, virtual reality, and 3D printing are now making their way into common language outside of our higher education walls. Ever increasing attention has been given to technologies like augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR), with new companies popping up every day and existing companies scrambling to expand their capabilities utilizing these technologies. In 2017 alone, venture capitalists poured over $3 billion dollars investing in AR and VR startups and the global healthcare AR/VR market is expected to hit $15 billion by 2026. Virtual and augmented reality headsets are free falling in price and rapidly hitting the consumer market with the HTC Vive and Facebook’s Oculus Rift falling from $800 in 2017 to $399-499 in 2018. Mobile based AR is rapidly gaining popularity as our everyday devices are now being supported by Apple’s ARkit and Google’s ARCore. Bringing these technologies to mobile devices will have huge implications in education and learning.

This post is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather a snapshot and examples of what technological capabilities are out there. Regardless of the technology, the adage ‘Content is King’ strongly resonates. One must remember that the technology will never make up for poor content or pedagogy. Although there is strong buzz around these technologies, I encourage everyone to be critical and see how the technology can actually add value or capabilities to the educational content without being the educational content itself. The best way to evaluate this is to ask yourself, ‘Could this content be made meaningful without this technology?’ For example, a virtual patient in VR may be cool, but are the interactions with the patient the same that could be had with much lower technology like a laptop or mobile device? In some instances, technology can actually add unnecessary cognitive load and detract from the learning experience.

This blog will detail technological advancements in the consumer and educational realm, and how medical educators are starting to use this technology to augment and, in some instances, replace existing learning experiences.


3D Visualization

3D Visualization is represented by many names including 3D rendering, computer generated graphics, and 3D graphics. Anyone who has watched an action or superhero movie in the last 10 years knows what this looks like. Essentially artists use computers to generate images representing 3 dimensional objects. For the most part, these 3D visualizations are intended to be viewed on a 2-dimensional screen. 3D graphical art has expanded rapidly and has almost become ubiquitous. Anatomy has been the most represented in this space, forcing many educators to ask whether we need human cadavers for anatomic dissection. Many companies have forayed into the interactive human anatomy atlas space including BioDigital’s 3D Interactive Human Cadaver, Medis Media’s 3D Anatomy Organon®, GraphicViZion’s Visual Anatomy 3D Human, Visible Body® Human Anatomy Atlas. Almost all of these are available as mobile apps, with some being available in virtual reality. These are all great for visualization of human anatomy in great detail and with the ability to peel away layers of skin and muscle to see the human body in all its glory. The interactivity with these models is relatively limited to rotating and zooming. Some platforms allow for links with pop-ups that give a description of the form or function of the given anatomical part.

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The Power of Why

Why is the most powerful word in education. Asking why is a mark of curiosity, the strongest intrinsic motivating factor. It forces people to find answers and ultimately ask more questions. It drives people to endlessly pursue knowledge. It, along with its cousins what and how, have driven scientists and researchers for centuries. What seeks to identify the element responsible for a given phenomenon. How is asked to better understand the processes that underpin a phenomenon. But why is the question that is asked when people want to utilize critical thinking. Why does not seek simple answers, rather it asks a fundamental characteristic that entrains judgement, reasoning, and logic.  Why beckons itself for someone with wisdom, experience and insight to bring reason and logic out of uncertainty. 

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Gregg Wells

Embrace research! Encourage re...

How will we promote the why?Encourage research thinking and practice in our learners and peers. Research is focused on why. We n... Read More
Thursday, 13 July 2017 8:08 PM
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The Great Divide: Bringing educational theory to practice in surgical education

This time last year I was sitting in a classroom at the school of education, learning about metacognition, reflection, and deep understanding.  It had only been 18 short years since I graduated high school and I couldn’t help but wonder - How did I get here?  I had finished my ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgical training and quickly went from learning about resecting cancer and performing airway reconstruction to learning about teaching for understanding. 

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Guest — Lawrence chauke

Thank you

Thank you for such important and insightful blog.
Wednesday, 12 April 2017 4:04 PM
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Medical education in the age of technology

I was sitting on my couch one day watching Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN talking about heart disease.  He was describing the process of atherosclerosis as a screen behind him projected a beautiful digital rendering of several small platelets flying down an artery only to strike a large yellow plaque adhering to a vessel wall.   I thought to myself “Why don’t we have these types of visually appealing digital videos to help explain complex processes like fat metabolism and bilirubin processing to our medical students?”  This discrepancy between the tech worlds of the private and education sectors has vexed me and I have spent the past several years educating myself about technology and its potential for medical education.

As many of us experienced in our training, the application of technology was limited to professors uploading their slide decks to PowerPoint™ and or learning management systems like Blackboard™.  With technology now ubiquitous in our lives, educators from K-12 to graduate schools are embracing technology for teaching in the hopes of engaging students, personalizing learning, and gathering an overabundance of data.  Medical education has classically been slow to innovate and in an era of rapidly expanding capabilities, we must face the fact that change is not only coming, but is necessary.  In this post I will try to scratch the surface on the innovations appearing in the world of educational technology and introduce some of the conferences showcasing the cutting edge.

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Admin User

Patient Interaction

It seems that this same rationale can be utilized to educate patients, especially older, GenX and beyond, on the issues they may f... Read More
Tuesday, 08 December 2015 7:07 PM
Holly C Gooding, MD, MSc

reply to Scott Cipinko

Thank you for bringing up the important point about patient education! So much of what we have learned about how adults learn is a... Read More
Tuesday, 08 December 2015 9:09 PM
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