Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Jacob Avila, Founder of 5 Minute Sono

Pinak Joshi
Jul 29, 2015

Dr. Jacob Avila is an attending physician of Emergency Medicine at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is the founder of www.5minsono.com, an educational site that provides concise, easy-to-remember ultrasound videos for EM residents, medical students, and healthcare professionals alike.

How did you first become interested in medicine? What about Emergency Medicine?
I always wanted to do medicine (or at least since 2nd grade). It wasn’t until 4th year of med school that I figured out I wanted to do EM. I know that’s a bit late, but my problem was that I liked everything (including psych, OB). I did an EM rotation fourth year, and after that first shift I knew EM is what I wanted.

Can you share your background on how you got to where you are right now?
I’m originally from southern California and did medical school there. My mother was living in Chattanooga, TN, and I wanted to spend a month with her, so I did a rotation out there. I ended up falling in love with the program in Chattanooga. I did residency there, and starting in my intern year, I began to become heavily involved with ultrasound with the help of Ben Smith (who runs ultrasoundoftheweek.com). I was able to start working on a few projects with Matt Dawson and somehow weaseled my way into a fellowship with him at the University of Kentucky.

In the 5 Minute Sono about page, you mention that you are one of many people benefiting from the #FOAMed movement and from online and asynchronous learning. Can you tell us when you first adopted this different form of learning? Do you believe that this kind of learning is becoming more prevalent for residents? Do you see it doing the same for medical students?
The first time I dabbled in online and asynchronous learning was probably during high school. This was due to the fact that I was actually homeschooled during high school so my family could travel around in Europe unhindered from a rigid school schedule. I enjoyed this because I was able to go at my own pace. I could do a lesson at 8pm at night or 6am. I have the attention span of a small bird, so sitting down for a day listening to a lecture is extremely difficult for me. Med school was tough in that regard. In residency I started with EMcrit, then moved on to the other big-hitters in podcasting, like emrap, ercast, ultrasoundpodcast, etc. After a few years of being frustrated trying to read journal articles, I discovered blogs. Personally, I study with both FOAMed and primary literature (journals/textbooks). I’m also pretty highly selective on which blogs I trust, because one of the downsides of online blogs is that they have the potential to be untrustworthy.

FOAMed is exponentially growing, and is a great supplement to traditional teaching. I don’t think that the way things are taught now need to necessarily be completely changed. FOAMed should be taught along with traditional teaching, IMHO.

What are 2-3 changes you would like to see in the current medical education system?
Meded – Only have people who actually know how to teach lecture. There were way too many PhD’s that were great researchers, but the worst lecturers. Stop the busy work. Integrate more FOAMed.

Do you have any final thoughts regarding the medical profession as a whole?
If you can do anything else in your life but medicine, do that thing, because medicine is hard. That being said, I love what I do, and would do it again in a heartbeat. The reason I say this is because I see plenty of people that go through medical school and residency and just hate what they do. That’s a huge waste of a life if you ask me.