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Fam Med. 2006 Nov-Dec;38(10):731-5.

Teaching the outstanding medical learner.

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  • 1Department of Family and Community Medicine, Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Ft. Gordon, GA 30905, USA.


Medical students and residents are typically prescribed a standardized curriculum. Learners who have difficultly meeting requirements of this curriculum often require extra attention and an individualized program of remediation. Outstanding medical learners, on the other hand, are rarely given an individualized learning program, even if they can easily master the standardized curriculum. These learners are likely to belong to a group that educators call "gifted adults." No literature on this group of medical learners currently exists, and no research has been conducted on them. This article is designed to begin a dialog on the best approach to educating outstanding medical learners using the framework of the gifted adult. Gifted adults possess a unique set of characteristics and have needs that set them apart from the majority of medical learners. There are also well-described pitfalls that these learners encounter. Gifted adults can best exercise their talents and maximize their potential when they receive an individualized educational approach that focuses on providing intellectual challenges with permission to explore interest areas. Research, publishing, teaching opportunities, and leadership roles are some examples of ways to challenge these learners. They should be strongly encouraged to extensively pursue individual interests. Effort should be made to ensure that these learners have contact with peers and mentors of equal intellectual abilities. Gifted adults who are not intellectually stimulated on a routine basis and are not able to interact with other talented individuals may get bored and frustrated with their education. Medical educators who understand the characteristics and drives of gifted adults will be better able to ensure that these learners are regularly challenged, with needed assistance to avoid common pitfalls.

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