From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published August 4, 2010 10:23 AM

iPads for New Med Students at UC Irvine

Goodbye heavy textbooks. Goodbye notebooks filled with doodles and illegible handwriting. The iPad has now arrived to the world of academia. The University of California Irvine (UCI) School of Medicine's incoming class of 2014 will all be receiving iPad tablet computers fully loaded with everything they need for their first year of courses.

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The wireless, hand-held computers will contain hundreds of medical applications and learning tools that can be adapted to each student's unique learning style. They will also be capable of recording and taking notes. Brief, topical lectures will be able to be viewed in a podcast-like format prior to students meeting in discussion groups. Each lecture would be able to be stored in an archive and viewed as needed.

A big advantage of using iPads will be the significant reduction in the use of paper. Handouts, syllabi, and textbooks would not have to be printed. This reduction would also save on administrative time, standing by the copy machine. It is all coincides with the University's overall strategy to go green and save money.

The iPads are part of the new iMedEd Initiative which the medical school has been developing. The goal is to create a comprehensive iPad-based curriculum and set the trend for how medicine is taught in the 21st century.

"We are committed to using evolving technology to benefit the education of our medical students," said Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, dean of the UC Irvine School of Medicine. "It is our firm belief that a digitally based curriculum will be the wave of the future, and UCI seeks to be a leader in the innovative presentation of information to students."

Not only are lectures and resource materials available, but actual medical tools will be programmed on the iPads. One such tool is known as the digital stethoscope, which will be used on a pilot basis for the incoming class. Students can listen to a patient's heartbeat and record it. That recording can then be compared to a library of over 3,000 other heartbeats that represent specific conditions a patient may have.

Another tool is a diagnostic ultrasound device which would offer an effective and noninvasive way to examine inside the body. Ultrasound manufacturer, SonoSite Inc has pledged nearly $3 million to integrate its technology to the iPad and the medical school curriculum.

Dr. Clayman believes that tablet computers are the wave of the future and these iPads are just the tip of the iceberg. "The age of electronic medicine is upon us, and both patient and practitioner will benefit. UCI's iMedEd curriculum is a step in that direction."

Taken in a broad context, tablet computers will surely make the practice of medicine faster.  However, will they indeed create better doctors? Similar questions can be asked of other emerging technologies. For example, search engines like Bing and Google allow access to more information. But does that make people smarter? Or in the case of global positioning systems (GPS), people are able to get to almost any point in the world. But does that make them any better at directions? The medical iPad would give doctors the necessary tools and resources at their fingertips. But it may also create a dependence. For now, it will be interesting to see how UCI's experiment goes.

Link to the iMedEd Initiative: http://www.imeded.uci.edu/

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