L-R:    Shaquita, Dr. Carla Pugh, Megan,  and Nicole

The Oncofertility Summer Research Fellowship 2010 is now in full swing (check out this post for more details)!  Our three Oncofertility Saturday Academy alumni undergraduate students, Nicole Miles, Shaquita Webster, and Megan Romero have been hard at work, both at the bench in Dr. Woodruff's laboratory and learning about many social issues surrounding women's health and oncofertility.  Last week, Dr. Carla Pugh presented her work on the use of technology to improve clinical skills education at the IWHR Monthly Research Forum, and Shaquita, Megan, and Nicole wrote the following post on their thoughts about the event.  Enjoy!

On June 22, 2010 at the Institute for Women’s Health Research Monthly Research Forum,  Carla Pugh, MD,  Assistant Professor of Surgery and Associate Director of the Center for Advanced Surgical Education here at Northwestern University, spoke about some of the anxiety and concerns first year medical students face when performing pelvic, prostate, and breast exams.  She stated that the major reason many medical students are so apprehensive to administer these ‘intimate’ exams is due to their lack of experience, as many are fresh out of college. As a first year medical student they are bombarded with information on the anatomy of the human body. However, in order to become a good physician one must not only have an understanding of the human anatomy but also how to perform a physical examination.

With this knowledge Dr. Pugh developed numerous pelvic, prostate, and breast anatomic models linked to sensors. These sensors are linked to computers that display where and how much pressure is applied to various anatomic features of the pelvic, prostate, and breast models.

Dr. Pugh demonstrated that the leading cause of anxiety for second year med students was fear of missing a lesion. Due to breast cancer’s prominence in women, the fear of missing something during a clinical breast exam can be a particularly anxiety-causing. Dr. Pugh also commented on the differences between the ways that clinical breast exams are performed by male and female practitioners, in terms of the time spent and amount of pressure used during the exam.

What makes the mannequins so amazing is that the sensors are placed inside model’s vagina or rectum, and as students' fingers move along the anatomy, they can see the location of their hands on a screen. "When you put your finger in someone's rectum for the first time, you think you know where the prostate is, but you don't," Pugh said. "Several things in medicine are assumed to be learned in time, but I think we can do better than that. You can't teach everybody everything in a lecture format."

Dr. Pugh’s inventions have revolutionized the world of medicine in various ways. But there was one thing that she had not mentioned.  After the seminar, we asked Dr. Pugh how her models are used outside of the classroom and whether they are available to local community centers so that women who don’t have the resources to get to a doctor can visit the center and teach themselves how to perform the exam.  We believe the breast models, in particular, would be beneficial to individuals in the community.  If women are able to give exams on the models it will help encourage self breast exams and promote early detection. While she was amazed by such a great thought, her response was that she had not had the opportunity to do so.

After a discussion with Dr. Pugh, we were interested in finding a way to get the breast  models out into the community.  Throughout our fellowship in the Woodruff lab, we are beginning to understand that the best way to learn any concept is by teaching it to someone else. We suggested creating a community outreach portion for her medical students.  Unfortunately, Dr. Pugh has no control over the curriculum nor does she have enough time with the students to implement such a plan. However, she stated that she would love to have our help to make it possible. With our mentors as our witness, taking Dr. Pugh's breast models to community centers across the city in efforts to increase early detection of breast cancer is now a goal in the making!

Dr. Pugh is also featured in an article in this week's Chicago Tribune.

Authors:  Megan Romero, Nicole Miles, and Shaquita Webster (Oncofertility Summer Research Fellows)



Love your comment "we are beginning to understand that the best way to learn any concept is by teaching it to someone else". So true for any subject. Your blog is a wonderful way to teach others. It's clean and well laid out with easy navigation. And your information? Top rate!

Yes, I think that it is quite a daunting thing to make the transition from the classroom to the practical application or working on precious life. Working on mannequins is a great idea and the perfect testing ground for working on patients. This type of training should be mandatory in classrooms from day one. Thanks.

I agree with the first comment 100% - one you can teach a subject, you definitely have a firm grasp on it!

Sharing model mannequins to the community is a great idea. And the approach being used to help medical students in overcoming their anxiety in performing actual physical examination is really very good. Medical students as our future doctors/health care provider should address their anxiety in performing physical examination and develop expertise in doing so because otherwise they would be passing that anxiety to their future patients. Patients who have been mishandled during first time physical examination would forever carry the fear of being mishandled each time they would undergo such examination.

The approach being used to help medical students in overcoming their anxiety in performing the actual physical examination is really very good.Otherwise they would be passing that anxiety to their future patients-to us and our children. Student must get lots of practice before they finish their school years, and I am sure that this new approach will help them very much to become better doctors. Good for them

Myself as a medical student can understand the anxieties that trainees experience whilst studying. We don't want to make mistakes we don't want to miss signs that people are sick, thanks for your post I am glad I am not the only one.

I agree! I think technology can help students a lot in medical education and in other educational domains. We really need to embrace these tools and help our students become top notch professionals post graduation.

I have heard and read plenty of reviews about implementing this kind of technology for medical education, based from my friend's experience as a medical student, pressure and anxiety are two of the things that they are dealing with, normally. But with this kind of innovation to be employed in medical institutes, certainly it will lessen those negative feelings of those first timer medical practitioners.

Thanks for this article.. It gave so much info and also good job on providing some links there in order for us readers to fully understand it. Keep it up, i'll be waiting for some future blog from you. .