Leaders in Medical Education

Lawrence Sherman, Senior Vice President at Prova Education

Osmosis Team
Published on Mar 20, 2014. Updated on Invalid date.


Osmosis was founded by two medical students who were confounded by how difficult it was to memorize and recall everything that they were asked to learn. What do these challenges look like after medical school?

What you need to know in the real world is different from what you need to memorize in medical school. All too often we want medical students to learn facts and figures but without context. They do, of course, need to learn many things to serve as a foundation, but the way they are taught could be different. Once in the real world there is a combination of learning needs - updates of information that was already learned, new information that must get added, and the most important one - information relevant to practice that comes up as a need at the point of care. That is the type of need that adult learners (not merely students) have, and in that context creates more types of educational needs.

How do you address these challenges within the context of continuing medical education?

There are really two parts to this - first, as educators, we have to assess educational needs in the vast learner base, representing a collective snapshot of needs, gaps and barriers. There are also individual learning needs that are assessed, so that the individual healthcare professionals are assessed for their needs. Aside from informational/knowledge needs, there are performance and practice level needs that are assessed as well as system needs. On top of these measurements, we also assess learner style and platform preferences. Educational activities are then developed to meet these needs and preferences. This way learners are (hopefully) able to find education (or have it find them) in formats that thy prefer and on topics that they are interested in and have needs around.

In your experience, what technologies improved medical education? Why were they successful?

All technologies have improved medical education. I don't view technological advances as replacements for what was, but more so I see them as enhancements to what is. In this regard the application of e-learning was a tremendous advance well over a decade ago. I have enjoyed watching the use of new and emerging technologies to deliver this type of education, and have watched software emerge that has enhanced the learning experience. Having the ability to learn wherever and whenever you want and need, and to interact with faculty is incredibly powerful.

Using a tablet or mobile device to participate in education in another location real-time or at a later date asynchronously extends the reach of quality education exponentially. Simulation and virtual reality have helped improve performance long before an actual patient is ever touched. Learning management systems that track and interact with the learners are powerful as well.


If you took over a medical school tomorrow, what three changes would you make?

  1. Interactivity in all lectures,
    Incorporation of multiple delivery platforms and techniques such as the flipped classroom to change the learning environment for the better,
    3. Continued incorporation of educational improvements learned from outside of medical education to supplement what we learn from within.

Can you describe your path to becoming a medical educator and how it shaped your perspective on medical education?

I was originally interested in a traditional clinical path and position, but I found that education was where I fit. It allowed me to combine my own thirst for medical knowledge with my passion for teaching and my stand-up comedy abilities. Yes, I've actually done comedy for comedy's sake and it really taught me the most important lesson that I learned as a medical educator: know your audience. It is important to remember that there is a difference between being a subject matter expert and being a true educator. You need to know your topic, but you also have to know how to teach and how to educate. And you have to constantly measure - from needs, gaps and preferences all the way through the impact of the education. It's not enough to just measure how much the students liked you. You cannot treasure it if you cannot measure it.

Just for fun: What's the funniest response you've received working with doctors?

Most of the funny responses that I'd like to share probably wouldn't be appropriate. Let's just say that it's not only kids that say the darnedest things.