APRIL 21, 2006 | B.J. Bailey, a fourth-year medical student, sat with the rest of his class recently listening to a lecture on smallpox, a disease he’ll probably never see in one of his patients.
Like his classmates, Bailey’s medical school training has come down to this: The 10th Block.
The popular final four-week session, now in its eighth year, includes some of the most important lessons of the students’ training that don’t fit into the regular curriculum. The 10th Block schedule includes certification in Advance Cardiac Life Support and sessions on organ transplants, health disparities, pronouncing death, and the tricky relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.
The schedule also includes some weighty non-medical issues offered by the volunteer LifeSkills Institute led by R. Barry Sorrells, M.D., a retired UAMS faculty member. The sessions include medical ethics, financial planning, buying a home, insurance and legal issues, all of which are conducted by leaders in these fields. For example, Judge Wendell L. Griffen of the Arkansas Court of Appeals spoke on “The Physician as a Courtroom Witness.”
The smallpox lecture, which included a vaccination demonstration and had sobering information about its devastating effects, was added to the 10th Block schedule following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
William Mason, M.D., medical director/chief of Public Health Preparedness, in the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, told the class that smallpox has been a potential weapon for decades. The former
“You may be called on to do vaccinations on an emergency basis,” Mason said. “I hope not.”
Bailey, who is specializing in pediatrics, said he doubts he’ll have patients with the disease, but he doesn’t discount the time spent in that lecture or others on emergency preparedness and avian influenza.
“I think we need to learn about these issues because even though people may never get smallpox or run into a chlorine truck that falls over, they are going to have questions about what we should do if that happens and that’s what’s helpful,” Bailey said.
Jay Menna, Ph.D., associate dean for medical education and co-director of the 10th Block, said the curriculum has continued to change as times change.
New this year are sessions on Type II diabetes.
“Diabetes is now epidemic and affects every organ system,” Menna said. “Physicians in general practice as well as those in other practices will see it. A dermatologist will see that the skin of a Type II diabetic heals differently after surgery. It has profound implications.”
Also new this year is a lecture series on physical medicine and rehabilitation, areas that medical students learn nothing about unless they take it as an elective.
The 10th Block concludes with entertaining, high-stakes presentations by the students, who must correctly diagnose a patient based on information provided by faculty.
Sara Tariq, M.D., assistant professor of Internal Medicine and the M.D. in charge of the Center for Clinical Skills Education, leads this part of the 10th block.
“She puts the students on stage and peppers them with questions about their case, which could be severe recurring headaches, psychotic episodes, fever of unknown origin or acute myocardial infarction,” Menna said. “For the students, it’s like holding court, and Dr. Tariq is truly dynamic.”
The presentations are judged on substance, quality and the students’ ability to answer questions professionally.
A final exam draws questions from the presentations, called morning reports, and the other 10th Block lectures and sessions.
“The students who don’t get a passing grade have to write a paper in the area of their weakness,” Menna said. “That’s only happened a couple of times.”