Tag Archives: Venice

Death in Venice

April in Venice (Photo, H. Colt)

Venice has 150 waterways and 455 bridges connecting more than 120 small islands. There are hundreds of narrow alleyways, art museums, shops, restaurants and outdoor cafés. The city is an emblem of Italy’s charms, and its people have a history rich with experience in diplomacy, the humanities, and intellectual creativity.

This week, a limited-attendance conference named “An International Workshop in Interventional Pulmonology: The road map towards competence” was organized by my friend and Venetian native, Professor Lorenzo Corbetta (University of Florence). Cosponsored by The Fondazione Internazionale Menarini, and held at Ca’ Foscari Academy, this conference included a small group of physician-educators from Europe, Australia, South America, the United States, and China. Our mission was to discuss and debate issues related to training for our growing medical speciality.

During my sojourn in this city known as “La Serenissima”, I reread Thomas Mann’s turn of the century novella, Death in Venice. In this story, a writer’s life is tragically marked by his obsession with beauty, and by his sensual attraction for a young boy on holidays with his mother. The screen adaptation was done in 1971 by Italian director Luchino Visconti. His  famous movie starred Dirk Bogarde and Bjorn Andresėn, with a soundtrack using music by Gustav Mahler. 

Oddly, the words death in Venice also seemed to reflect what I believe is the result of this week’s international conference. What I mean is they signal the end of an antiquated Halstedian education model historically linked to a “see one, do one, teach one” paradigm of medical procedural education.

For example, conference participants unanimously concluded that patients must not be used as subjects for medical procedural education. This modern educational paradigm is justified by ethical practices, educational philosophies, and an increasing availability of robust alternatives. 

Participants also agreed agreed that (1) validated, objective measures of learning outcomes are beneficial and should be implemented in our training programs; (2) these learning outcomes and other training milestones should be routinely documented as a roadmap toward competency; (3) specifically structured training programs should be designed using a multidimensional curricular approach; and (4) Train-the-Trainer programs (faculty development) are warranted to help trainers become more familiar with a large variety of teaching techniques, assessment tools, learning principles, and education-related philosophies.

For example, a program that helps ensure ethical procedural practice and efficient, effective teaching might include documented learning outcomes with checklists, identifying strengths and weaknesses using a combination of learner-centric assessment tools, and deconstructing clinical issues using a combination of simulation and problem/case-based exercises with opportunities for feedback and two-way conversation.

Just as importantly, conference participants concluded that it is no longer necessary to debate the primeval question of why these modern educational tools should be used Instead, we should move into an age of widespread implementation in order to answer questions of how these tools can be used most effectively in our quest for competency. 

My personal interpretation of the conference’s outcome is as follows:

– Our focus can shift from that of resisting change to that of implementation. 
– Our objective should be to create a training environment that is coherent with learning habits of a younger generation of doctors, yet adaptable to diverse medical and cultural environments. 
– Our inspiration derives from the dedication and intrinsic motivation of physician-educators who actively learn from each other during Train the Trainer workshops (certified and master instructors from Bronchoscopy International are two examples of such a process). 
– Our sense of achievement comes from competently serving patients and training a new generation of doctors who refuse to use patients as training victims.

In my opinion, therefore, this landmark conference signals the end of an era stained by Halstedian philosophies. In its place is a commitment to implement a multidimensional approach to procedure-related education. Training programs that incorporate checklists, assessment tools, step-by-step learning, simulation, procedural logbooks, data collection and analysis, knowledge of educational philosophies, instructional techniques, and structured opportunities for learner-teacher feedback constitue a solid framework for what clearly is a new beginning.

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