Harvard Macy Community Blog

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

Making Learning Stick – an interview with the founders of the revolutionary learning platform Osmosis.org

HMI: What led you to start Osmosis?

Shiv and Ryan: We met at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine as anatomy team-based learning partners. A week after anatomy ended, we were quizzing each other on material that we had known extremely well just a few weeks earlier and were shocked to realize that we had already forgotten much of it.

That did not bode well for the next four years of med school followed by 3-7 years of residency, not to mention a lifetime of practice. We found that our classmates had similar issues with retention. Compounding this problem was that we had an overwhelming number of resources – books, question banks, videos, reference articles, etc. – that were not being organized or presented to us in an easily digestible or optimal way.

Given that both of us had backgrounds in neuroscience and engineering, we did a literature review and found proven cognitive techniques such as spaced repetition and test-enhanced learning that were implemented only in isolation in medical school curricula, if at all.  We decided to start building a tool that would essentially help a student “manage medical school.” The idea was to create a virtual tutor that knew exactly what we were learning, could recommended high-yield resources, and would quiz us periodically to ensure we were staying up-to-date. Within a few weeks of releasing this tool – Osmosis - to our classmates at Johns Hopkins we started hearing from friends of friends at Tufts, Northwestern, Columbia, and a few other medical schools who wanted to use it. We decided to keep developing it and almost three years later we now have 35,000 medical students and 16 schools using it to improve the way they learn and teach, respectively.


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How Harvard-Macy course helped me to walk in my ancestors’ footsteps: taking on a job in the USA

In the Netherlands around 1890s, prospects for farmers were very poor. As a result, my grandfather’s uncles, Cees and Leen Schelling left their family farm in Goudswaard and immigrated to Sioux Center, Iowa, in 1893 and 1895, to start their futures as farmers in the United States. My great-great-grandfather gave Leen the advice to learn how to make cheese as preparation for working in the USA. They left without courses to help them prepare for a new future. Although they had a good network of family and friends at home, it was hard to contact them since there were no phones and mail was delivered by boat. What a different experience I had…

Recent Comments
Lisa Nash, DO


What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing.
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 9:09 PM
Admin User

Tante Betje.

Monica, wat interessant omdat tante Betje mijn Granny was. Love Ma.
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 10:10 PM
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Don’t be a ‘wet dog!’ Returning home after the Harvard Macy Program for Educators in the Health Professions

Having recently attended the Harvard Macy program for medical educators, I cannot help but be inspired and filled with ideas.  The course itself is probably the most intense course I have taken, with workshops and lectures occupying the day and then readings and homework lasting until midnight each evening. 

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Diary of a Macy Returning Scholar

<Editor’s note: This series of eleven posts were written by Atipong Pathanasethpong, MD, MSc during the Harvard Macy Program for Educators in Health Professions January 2016 session.  A member of the Faculty of Medicine at Khon Kaen University, Thailand and a student in the Harvard Medical School Masters of Science in Medical Education program, Dr. Pathanesethpong began blogging daily as a way to reflect on his experience in the course.  

The process of writing is itself a learning opportunity - a special time to reorganize our ideas about the world and a chance to discover inner wisdoms that we might not be aware we already have.

Different types of information come to us at different times, in many forms, and in varying levels of maturity.  Sometimes it is hard for us to weed out great ideas from the rest. Writing provides us with a unique state of mind in which we are able to distill our thoughts and organize them.

To write is to grow.

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Harvard Macy Educators: Welcome to the “tribe” Class of 2016!

Prior to March 2011, I’d never been to Boston.  Here in January 2016, I’ve long since lost count of how many trips I’ve been fortunate to take to Boston.  And all of them either to attend a Harvard Macy course (all four now!), work on my (now completed!) MS in Health Professions Education, or to serve as a Returning Scholar in the Educator’s course. 

I remember early on in my HMI experience, being somewhat surprised at the number of Returning Scholars who come back year-after-year to contribute to the next course.  It did not take long for me to discover why.  A classmate from my Educators 2012 course described it best I think… as “finding my tribe”.  Even in the relatively small world of academic physicians, there is something fundamentally different about the smaller cadre of medical educators that collect around Liz Armstrong and the amazing HMI faculty.  And who knew that the “rock stars” and legends of medical education would turn out to be such genuinely nice, friendly and welcoming people? But back to that fundamental difference I mentioned… like many before me, and many who will come in the future, I found myself no longer content with “just” learning new skills to improve my teaching and the programs to which I contribute.  I developed an intense interest in unpacking the whole educational process… taking it apart, seeing not just what does/doesn’t work but WHY… and to begin working on how to put it back together in a hopefully better way.  The “why” is fascinating.

I was thrilled to be invited as a Returning Scholar, and I come back every year to reconnect with friends and colleagues and to meet and welcome new members of the tribe.  I now count among my friends many other people who are passionate about medical education, and improving it, from coast to coast.  I’ve kept in touch with many from my own 2012 Educator’s course, taught with them in other places, invited them to teach at my school, advised on projects or sought advice on projects, and even “cold called” another member of the HMI community who I’d never met but found in the alumni directory and thought could help.  And she did, enthusiastically, at the first mention of our HMI connection. 

I come back because I still learn a ridiculous amount of stuff!  Every! Single! Time!  And because it is just so much fun to work with people who are only a few years behind me on this journey and so excited about it.  The first two days of the course contain some of my own favorite stuff.  Some highlights from 2016 for me so far…

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