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Acad Med. 2003 Mar;78(3):280-5.

Exploring and embracing complexity in a distance-learning curriculum for physicians.

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White River Junction VA Medical Center, White River Junction, Vermont 05009, USA.

Erratum in

  • Acad Med. 2003 May;78(5):436.


The recent pressures on clinical medicine such as the attention to medical error and the challenges of interdisciplinary care have also exerted pressure on health professions education. Educators must now gauge how to redesign education systems to adapt quickly to these disruptions. Sometimes disruptions can be self-inflicted, such as the VA National Quality Scholars Fellowship's decision to use interactive video (IV) as its primary medium for delivering the curriculum to its six sites around the nation. The authors describe how this disruption to their education system helped to fashion a learning environment that is adaptable. Along the journey from a classroom-based curriculum to an IV-based curriculum, the authors and others involved in the program learned the basic tenets of IV sessions, redefined the roles of the teachers and learners, and discovered an IV environment that functions as a complex adaptive learning system. This distance-learning curriculum can be a model for other health professions education, since it starts with simple rules, changes from within, has a tolerance for unpredictability, and continually moves forward and transforms itself despite tension.

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