Letter to my PBL facilitator

May 11, 2007 at 5:36 pm (1st and 2nd year)

You presided over a group of motivated medical students and managed to crush their will to the point of learned helplessness. In the beginning, our presentations were good enough to study from. But by the end of the semester, I spent less than an hour on my PowerPoint presentations. My classmates similarly had a steady decline in quality.

Whenever a student tried to contribute to the differential diagnosis, you didn’t just lead him away from erroneous thinking, your typical response was, “Think before you speak. Why would you even say such a thing?” You successfully management to keep us all from ever trying to add to the discussion. Surely you didn’t realize something was wrong when you kept asking at the end of the course, “Why is everyone so quiet?”

I know you went to an Ivy League school. You couldn’t help yourself in reminding us every week that you attended Harvard and know all about the PBL process. I wonder: did Harvard also teach you to be rude to everyone? Was one of the learning issues about crushing people’s will?

We had multiple guests drop by to see how PBL works. You demonstrated the opposite of what the school was hoping for. I think you even scared away two professors who could have done a lot for our university.

Your evaluation of me was the lowest eval I’ve ever received. While most of my peers gave me perfect scores and noted that I give great presentations, you wrote that I need to stop throwing out ideas without thinking of the mechanism of disease. I was only doing what I had been taught by earlier instructors. As I recall, formulating a differential diagnosis involves listing every possible disease, even the zebras.

You convinced me that I want to go back to lectures, where I could at least stay home if I didn’t like a particular speaker.

The worst example of your arrogance and inability to look introspectively came when you decided to give us advice about third year. Included in your talk were don’t be arrogant and acknowledge your shortcomings.

In summary, I hope that future generations of students don’t have to put up with your non-sense. You are a shining example of the physician that I hope that I never become.



  1. JC said,


    I just started at [editted]. Are you referring to [editted]? We will be doing PBL starting in sept with [editted]. Do you feel that [editted] didn’t help you prepare for the boards? We started w/ a 3 wk intro to med course and it seems like they’re really emphasizing patient-centered care and teaching us good interviewing techniques etc. I think that’s important of course but I also hope that they try to prepare us well for step I. What are your thoughts?


    Half MD: I removed parts of this comment to retain anonymity. Learning interviewing and physical exam skills are certainly important, but they won’t help you on the boards. Also, the level of emphasis that’s placed on meaningless information during the Physicianship course is astounding. You’ll have hours of lectures covering everything from Medicare reimbursements to poverty in the Caribbean—topics that do not help on the boards or the wards.

  2. JC said,

    Yeah sorry my email was required so I thought I was sending you a private message. LOL. I think they want us to be proactive in our med school education so a lot of learning will be up to us as individual med students. We were told the our campus scored above the national avg on step I and also above the main campus’ avg so we’ll see. Good luck with your rotations.

    Proactive? Or is it called self-teaching? The Step I average is high, but don’t count on the faculty to deliver that result to you. You’ll have to teach a lot of the material to yourself. Also, the students who scored that high on the exam used the old curriculum. Your class is starting a new curriculum. We’ll just have to wait two years to see if all of that PBL pays off.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: