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Promoting Professional Behavior in Concrete Ways Through Critical Reflection by Students in Medical Basic Science Courses

Lon Van Winkle, Midwestern University

A major challenge in medical education remains to foster empathy in students during training.  Empathy decreases in medical students both in the context of medical education and patient care and more generally.  While such findings have been criticized as greatly exaggerated, the change is in the wrong direction.  For example, in one study, the emotional empathy of the average medical student fell from the 52nd to the 33rd percentile of the population during the first three years of medical school.

Emotional empathy is an independent determinant of relationship success. Good relationships with patients and health care team members promote patient satisfaction, foster adherence with treatment plans and minimize malpractice claims. Cohen suggested that such professional behavior is animated by humanistic values.  Similarly, we have found that activities to foster critical reflection can help to awaken the humanistic values needed for professional behavior by giving students concrete contexts in which to consider the values and behavior.

In this session we describe briefly a total of 20 learning activities used over two academic quarters to promote students’ professional behavior in our medical biochemistry courses while retaining biochemistry course content.  We then discuss in greater detail one activity designed to foster critical reflection in students and persons attending this workshop.  Attendees will work individually and then in teams in order to experience first hand the activity as students do.  This critical reflection should, in turn, awaken the humanistic values needed to animate professional behavior both in students and attendees.

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