Stanford switches med students to iPads

  • 10 August 2010

Medicine students starting at Stanford University School of Medicine will this year be given an iPad as part of a trial programme in integrate the mobile device into medical education.

Stanford will distribute iPads to its incoming class of 91 first-year medical school and master’s of medicine students during orientation later in August.

The prestigious medical school aims to use the iPads to give its students flexible access to the content they need, this will range whether it is a virtual cadaver in dissection lab, annotated lecture slides and videos in the classroom, or journal articles for evidence-based practice in clinic.

Students currently face mandatory fees running into hundreds of dollars a term for printed materials and photocopies.

“We want to explore the use of iPads and other technologies to help students access the enormous amount of medical knowledge that is being produced constantly,” said Charles Prober, MD, the school’s senior associate dean for medical education.

“Part of the challenge facing medical students, and all doctors, is the overwhelming amount of information. Devices like the iPad may be able to help users access that pool of knowledge.”

Because the population of new students is extremely tech-savvy, it makes sense to teach them through the use of the electronic devices they’re familiar with, Prober said, adding, “We can either say, ‘That’s silly. They have to learn the old-fashioned way.’ Or we embrace where they are.”

The school will closely monitor the use of the iPads through regular surveys to help determine how helpful they are to students. Previous experiments with similar electronic devices, such as the Kindle, in academic settings haven’t been successful.

“We really don’t know yet how the incoming medical students will use them,” said Henry Lowe, MD, senior associate dean for information resources and technology. But, as a physician using an iPad himself, he’s found the device to be extremely helpful and believes it is growing in popularity among doctors.

“Physicians are a mobile group,” Lowe said. “They’re moving around from clinic to clinic, from patient to patient. … I’ve seen a variety of reports from across the country saying that physicians have seized on the iPad as a helpful device.”

At least some of Stanford’s medical students have already begun using the device. Stesha Doku, a 23-year-old, second-year Stanford medical student from North Carolina who recently bought an iPad, said: “I use it for reviewing slides from last year, for saving everything in one place. I probably won’t use my laptop in class anymore.

“Especially in medicine, we’re using so many different resources, including all the syllabuses and slides. I’m able to pull them up and search them whenever I need to. It’s a fantastic idea.”


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