iPad program prepares med students for 'wave of the future'

By Molly Merrill
04:52 PM

During UC Irvine’s White Coat Ceremony on Friday each member of the School of Medicine’s incoming class of 2015 will receive an iPad as part of its initiative to provide students with a digital medical education.

This marks the second year the School of Medicine is giving new students a tablet computer containing the course outlines, notes, lecture slides and textbooks needed for the coming academic year – a core component of the school’s innovative iMedEd Initiative, which officials say has grown into one of the most comprehensive, fully digital medical education programs in the country.

In addition to the donor-purchased iPads, the iMedEd Initiative includes the West Coast’s first portable ultrasound training curriculum, as well as advanced medical simulation and telemedicine facilities in the school’s state-of-the-art building.

“We are committed to using digital technology to benefit the education of our medical students,” said Ralph V. Clayman, dean of UCI’s School of Medicine. “It is our firm belief that the integration of these technologies into healthcare will be the wave of the future, and UC Irvine seeks to be a leader in preparing students for this future.”

As the iMedEd Initiative enters its second year, officials say several new developments help ensure its continued success:

  •  A $1.2 million gift from John Tu, co-founder and CEO of Fountain Valley-based Kingston Technology, will cover iPad costs until 2015.
  • The second-year curriculum has been formatted for the iPad.
  • The UniHealth Foundation awarded John Christian Fox, the medical school’s director of instructional ultrasound, a three-year, $700,000 grant to create a four-year academic program in handheld ultrasound technology. His colleague Elizabeth Turner, a critical care specialist, received $50,000 from the University of California Center for Health Quality & Innovation to implement a curriculum on the bedside use of handheld ultrasound.
  • Under the iMedEd Initiative, UCI’s School of Medicine and Australia’s University of New England School of Rural Medicine are collaborating on a way for students on both continents to participate jointly in real-time medical simulation and telemedicine training

During the initiative’s first year, Warren Wiechmann, the school’s director of instructional technologies, saw students and faculty embrace new opportunities afforded by iMedEd. “Students have a much more personal stake in how content is developed and presented with the iPad platform,” he said, “and our faculty members are more eager to try new technologies to make content more immersive.”

Second-year medical students have been exploring the tablet computer’s potential as a healthcare tool outside class. Over the summer, some have taken their iPads to Vietnam and India to see how they can be used in areas with limited Internet access. And UCI students involved with the Flying Sams devised an iPad-based patient tracking system at a free clinic they helped establish in Mexico.

Additionally, Wiechmann said, he and his colleagues are working to incorporate digital microscopes and stethoscopes into the iPads, and they’re utilizing three-dimensional human anatomy programs and clinical radiology systems running on the iPad to supplement traditional anatomical education with cadavers.

“Compared to every other school, UCI is far ahead on integrating technology into medical education,” said Melody Besharati, an incoming medical student who is receiving an iPad at today’s White Coat Ceremony. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”