Mario White, age 29, is a Year 1 medical student attending PBL for the first time. As he enters PBL room 110 he is greeted by his PBL tutor, Dr Eleni Charalambous. Mario takes a seat and looks around the room and the other students as they enter the room. Suddenly he experiences difficulty breathing and an irregular heartbeat. As he looks down on his hands he realizes that the piece of paper in his hand is wet.

Discussion Questions

List the key information about Mario and possible causes of his symptoms.

Some if not most of the students reading this can identify with what Mario is going through. In Year 1 of the MBBS, PBL is unknown territory for most students and as with most new things it is

CS Year Students – paper based PBL

met with a number of emotions ranging from anticipation and excitement to fear and scepticism. This year we have welcomed our fourth cohort of medical students on the MBBS4 programme and as in previous years, they come from a variety of academic and ethnic backgrounds. This is a very positive aspect of our programme and one of our CS year students commented that:

‘…having people of different backgrounds allows for a variety of ideas and knowledge to be shared among the group.’  

The feelings of anxiety can still persist and students stated that ‘…I would like a little more guidance for report back and prompts for the tutor to dive deeper…’ or ‘…I would prefer if the cases closed on Thursday…’ These are expected comments.

Still, most students face PBL with optimism. One of our students said it best:

‘I feel the PBL format really helps with transforming students into skilful doctors. …Problem solving skills can be trained in many ways, but I have yet to see one as all-encompassing as the PBL format. …the cases are not just about solving medical science problems, but are very dynamic in allowing us to consider things such as population health, cultural aspects and individual needs. What more could you ask for in a doctor than someone who is skilled in diagnosing, and is mindful of the person in front of them?’

T Year PBL students – learning through visual patients

For our T year students, PBL has become second nature. Still, the process is somewhat different as the students now have the opportunity to make decisions. One of our student’s comments:

‘In T-year, with interactive cases, the process has become even more engaging. I can’t imagine trying to learn medicine any other way’

This is something the CS year students may look forward to.

The faculty tutoring our students have started the year with enthusiasm and have welcomed them. One of our tutors commented that:

‘In general I am very happy from PBL this year in terms of the process and this year’s cohort. Students make a great effort to adapt to the new learning experience and they work effectively as a team…

And it is always rewarding to see that the people tutoring truly believe in what they preach. To illustrate our tutors commented:

‘If I could be a student again I would definitely like to experience learning through PBL.’

‘In PBL, medical students must coalesce into a group, yet have the strength to stand apart from that group. As a PBL tutor I am a guide to simultaneous navigation of these two divergent paths. It is a challenge, an honour, and great joy’.

The current academic year has started with a great deal of enthusiasm and optimism from students and faculty alike. This provides the best omen for yet another successful year that will culminate with the graduation of our first cohort. Now there is something to look forward to!