Exploring Human Potential

Open Advice to AAMC 51st RIMA Meeting Planners

Posted on | April 19, 2012 | No Comments

Will two college professors soon “eat your lunch”?

Mike Magee

On November 2, 2007, the Association of American Medical Colleges will convene the 51st National Research In Medical Education conference at its 123rd Annual Meeting. February 20, 2012 was the deadline for submissions which will shape the content for the meeting.(1) The 2012 lead initiatives of the AAMC include (2):

“Aligning and Educating for Quality (ae4Q)

The ae4Q initiative is designed to assist the continuing medical education units of academic medical centers to more effectively integrate with performance improvement goals.

Readiness for Reform (R4R)

The AAMC Readiness for Reform (R4R) initiative assists AAMC member institutions in assessing their readiness for responding to key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and facilitates sharing member strategies and best practices for building capacity to address delivery reform.

Research on Care Community (ROCC)

ROCC is the research arm of the AAMC’s Best Practices for Better Care initiative, but is also open to all interested member medical schools and teaching hospitals.

Joining Forces

The AAMC is working with practitioners who care for our nation’s military members and their families.

Leadership and Talent Development

Working with our member medical schools and teaching hospitals, the AAMC is developing resources and tools to help institutions improve the process by which they search for and select institutional leaders.


Current evidence suggests that the United States is headed toward an aggregate shortage of physicians. The AAMC’s Center for Workforce Studies conducts research that informs health workforce policy and compels the nation toward the right mix of physicians.”

…all of which is fine, much of which will be well represented in both submissions and final agenda, and none of which addresses significant transformative changes enveloping general education reform, consumer empowerment/professional partnering, and virtual bypass of historic power bases by new information technologies.

Are Medical Educators outliers in the general education arena when it comes to continuing to choose the status-quo over new risk-laden approaches to enveloping trends? A quick review would suggest the answer is yes. Let’s take a quick peak at what’s going on out there at higher education institutions.

1. Coursera: Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton just announced they have secured $16 million in venture capital and partnerships from two of Silicon Valley’s premier venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates.(3,4) This the first step in creation of a Web portal to provide open access to a broad array of interactive courses in the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences and engineering. The brain child of Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, two Stanford computer scientists, didn’t come out of nowhere. Last year, their online courses reached over 100,000 students.  Last year a highly publicized course in artificial intelligence topped out at 160,000 students from 190 countries. It was taught by former Stanford Professor Sebastian Thrun and  Peter Norvig, Google’s director of research. Participants didn’t receive university credits for the course, but rather certificates of completion. Thrun was apparently impressed. He resigned from Stanford and launched the new online university, Udacity.(4)

2. Free Is Good: The dual realities of open access and no fees apparently are not seen as obstacles amount savy investors. Says venture capitalist John Doerr, a Kleiner investment partner,  “Yes. Even with free courses. From a community of millions of learners some should ‘opt in’ for valuable, premium services. Those revenues should fund investment in tools, technology and royalties to faculty and universities.” As for the professors, they seem happy to pony up – what if you had the choice to reach 100,000 minds rather than 100?(4)

3. Flipping The Classroom: What investors in start-ups like Coursera, Udacity, Minerva, Udemy, MIT, and others are banking on is highly efficient learning centered on a concept introduced by educator, Salman Khan. He is the dynamic, youthful, almost naive creator of Khan Academy(5), who originally was simply doing a “nice turn” for his long-distance nephew by creating 10 minute interactive learning sessions on a wide range of topics. What he realized in the process was that it was easier to teach a person at home and problem-solve in the classroom than the other way around. Homework becomes schoolwork and vice versa.

All of which brings me back to the 51st RIME Meeting in San Francisco on November 2, 2012. Here’s how I see it. First, the physician job description hasn’t fundamentally changes in a century. Second, US medical education remains trapped in brick and mortar, hospital-centric, and focused on training physicians in highly traditional formats. Third, rapid advances in evolution of higher education may present individuals in the near future with opportunities to acquire more relevant medical education, faster and cheaper, through alternatives to medical schools. Fourth, these options will be open not only to potential new physicians and other health professionals, but also to their highly motivated patients.

Note to planners of the 51st RIMA Conference: Suggest a call to Salman Khan or Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller to see if they are available for a keynote at your conference.

For Health Commentary, I’m Mike Magee


1 AAMC Annual Meeting: 2012.

2. AAMC 2012 Featured Initiatives.

3. Coursera: About Coursera.

4. Markoff J. Online Education Venture Lures Cash Infusion And Deals With 5 Top Universities. April 18, 2012. New York Times.

5. Khan Academy.


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