I am lucky to have found a unique way to blend my interests in Medicine, Art and Teaching/Learning with my computer skills into applications for medical education.
After graduation from High School and College "Realgymnasium Raemibuehl" in 1984 in Zurich, Switzerland, I was accepted as a student at the Higher School of Fine Art in Zurich where I spent a wonderful year studying all different kinds of graphic art like painting, drawing, etching, modeling and calligraphy among others. After that initial year, I passed the exam to enter the special class to become an art teacher.
Next the decision to not become an art teacher but to switch tracks and study medicine at the University of Zurich Medical School. In Switzerland, Medical School takes 6 years: 2 preclinical and 4 clinical years. After the first 2 years, I and a group of friends decided to not just tolerate the state of things but to actively change them to the better. We took a year off to have the time we needed to review and improve the curriculum from our student’s perspective. Our suggestions for improvement were backed up by the other students in a survey, finally our suggestions had even some impact on the way how the basic medical sciences are taught at the University of Zurich Medical School.
I enjoyed studying clinical medicine for the following four years very much. It was a great experience, filled with many new insights into human existence. I liked the clinical bedside teaching courses – but most of the lectures I didn’t like at all. That’s when I became the students’ representative for family medicine – and the director of a small student’s group who was seeking a way how to enhance the educational experience throught media - which, at that point, were mainly slide shows and instructional videos.
During my vacations, I started developing databases for Mettler-Toledo’s application Lab – then with dBase III on the first PC. Later I had a chance to start using Apple Macintosh Computers and HyperCard to develop applications for Mettler-Toledo. I improved my programming and computer skills to a level that I was hired to work as database developer and trouble shooter for a small computer company (WBS in Dielsdorf) for all the remaining years of my studies.
When I graduated from medical school Zurich in 1993, I did a short stint at the Swiss National Television Company in its public health education department. In 1994 I started my professional career with two jobs at the University of Berne Medical School simultaneously: As a curriculum designer for the 3rd year and as a producer of video and developer of (then very new) computer applications for medical education at the Department of Educational Media (AUM). After one year, I concentrated my energy on my job at the AUM. As often in life, it’s people who are the most important ingredient to success. In my case, I was extremely lucky to meet and collaborate with Marco Mumenthaler, a "Grand Senior" of Neurology - and a great teacher. Our work was very productive and successful, in terms of projects (they received many awards and were translated into different languages) as well as for personal reasons since we became friends. I stayed at the AUM for almost 8 years, until 2001.
In 2001, Joe Henderson, the founder and director of the IML (Interactive Media Lab at Dartmouth Medical School) asked me to join his team as visiting professor. I knew about the IML productions - especially the HIV/AID virtual clinic. The main projects that I was involved with during my 3 year stay at the IML was "Smoking Cessation for Pregnancy and Beyond", a production funded by the R. W. Johnson Foundation and work on the “Virtual Terrorism Response Academy". I'm forever greatful to Joe Henderson for having offered me this wonderful opportunity! (I refered to this when I gave a speech to his retirement, which you may watch by clicking here)
In October 2004 I joined the Faculty of Drexel University College of Medicine (DUCoM)in Philadelphia as an assistant research professor. My task was to continue on my way and to research, develop and integrate computer technology for the enhancement of medical education. My first large-scale project was “doc.com”, a series of 41 media-rich on-line modules for the teaching, learning, and assessment of skills needed in healthcare communication. Another project I'm working on is "WebOSCE", an on-line technology to allow students to practice new knowledge and skills on on-line standardized patients.
In 2007, I was promoted to the rank of an Associate Professor of Family, Community, and Preventive Medicine. Since 2008, I'm teaching healthcare communication skills to Students in a blended learning setting where we combined small group discussion and bedside teaching with e-learing resources (DocCom). Still, most of my time I spend on the research, development, and implementation of on-line resources to enhance education for medical students, interns, and residents.