Giving A Lecture: First, Do No Harm

(For other examples of What Not To Do, see my How to Give A Med School Lecture post.)

Do not – please – do not begin your lecture like this:

I know you think it’ll stir up interest.  I know you’ve been told to start a presentation with a story to grab attention.  I know.

But this isn’t a seminar where you need to grab our attention  – you’ve already grabbed our attention by beginning a lecture that we will be tested on. Attendance is not mandatory – so everyone here is already on your side.  We just want to learn about Arthriludigo Recusing Vascunautum – whatever the hell that is.

(And you’d better believe that we have no idea.  No clue whatsoever.)

But now, after that case presentation? I STILL have no idea what disease you’re talking about, – but now I also have no idea which facts I should remember as being pertinent, versus which ones were added for narration’s sake or to illustrate an association with another disease!  I know even less than I did when you started.  HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE.

Here’s another example of how not to begin your lecture:

Again, I started off simply not knowing how to diagnose the disease.  But now I’m actually more confused– which diagnostic criteria is the current one?  Is it Michigan?  Detroit?  Did they actually adopt the Sitwell Criteria?  What’s RRTV?  Is there a difference between Recusing sclerosis and sclerotic recusing?  … wait, what’s recusing?  And sclerosis of what?  And are you telling us all these past criteria because they’re still in use, or what?

I mean, feel free to put historical slides in there somewhere to demonstrate that researchers in the field are having a heyday with this thing, so we shouldn’t be surprised when it changes in 2 years.  I get it.  That’s important.  But I think it’s fair to say it’s not as important as knowing what the hell the disease actually is.

Please create your 1st slide by remembering these key points:
1.  Med students are dumb.
2.  … nope, that’s it.

Don’t make me go to wikipedia.  If I go to wikipedia, it completely negates any chance you might have had at keeping my attention – you’ve lost me.  I’ve read the entry and now I’m looking up, finally knowing what you were talking about, only to realize I have no idea what you are now talking about.  (Except x100, because everyone else in the class will be doing this too.)

It would make my day if you’d begin your presentation with a slide like this:

Sure, it’s still written in medical-ese, but now I have an idea what ARV is.  So now I’m all up for hearing the baseball player’s case presentation and the changing criteria in the field.

Lecture magic!


4 thoughts on “Giving A Lecture: First, Do No Harm

  1. While I agree with the last 2 ideas, I totally disagree with case study suggestion. When case studies are used effectively and in the right place, I think they are extremely helpful! They allow you to apply the concepts the lecturer is introducing to a real life example and truly test your knowledge. Maybe this doesn’t work as well in a clinical lecture but I know in the epidemiology lectures we had, the cases were incredibly useful! (source:also a med student)

    • Legitimate! 🙂 But I think the key is that they need to be used effectively. I find they’re usually only helpful if it’s relatively clear what the case study is about. But if the lecture is on “Vesiculobulbous Diseases” and they attempt to cover 9 diseases in 1 lecture, the first 9 slides of the lecture shouldn’t be 9 consecutive, undiagnosed, very different case presentations. (We had this happen. It was so confusing. I think at the end she told us which disease was which.) I prefer it when the case presentation comes a little later, after we know the definition and epidemiology of the disease. But to each his/her own!

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