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1.  The Future of e-Learning in Medical Education: Current Trend and Future Opportunity 
A wide range of e-learning modalities are widely integrated in medical education. However, some of the key questions related to the role of e-learning remain unanswered, such as (1) what is an effective approach to integrating technology into pre-clinical vs. clinical training?; (2) what evidence exists regarding the type and format of e-learning technology suitable for medical specialties and clinical settings?; (3) which design features are known to be effective in designing on-line patient simulation cases, tutorials, or clinical exams?; and (4) what guidelines exist for determining an appropriate blend of instructional strategies, including on-line learning, face-to-face instruction, and performance-based skill practices? Based on the existing literature and a variety of e-learning examples of synchronous learning tools and simulation technology, this paper addresses the following three questions: (1) what is the current trend of e-learning in medical education?; (2) what do we know about the effective use of e-learning?; and (3) what is the role of e-learning in facilitating newly emerging competency-based training? As e-learning continues to be widely integrated in training future physicians, it is critical that our efforts in conducting evaluative studies should target specific e-learning features that can best mediate intended learning goals and objectives. Without an evolving knowledge base on how best to design e-learning applications, the gap between what we know about technology use and how we deploy e-learning in training settings will continue to widen.
doi:10.3352/jeehp.2006.3.3
PMCID: PMC2631188  PMID: 19223995
Education, Medical; Computer-Assisted Instruction; Learning
2.  Infraorbital Nerve Block for Isolated Orbital Floor Fractures Repair: Review of 135 Consecutive Cases 
Background:
Orbital blowout fractures can be managed by several surgical specialties including plastic and maxillofacial surgery, otolaryngology, and ophthalmology. Recommendations for surgical fracture repair depend on a combination of clinical and imaging studies to evaluate muscle/nerve entrapment and periorbital tissue herniation.
Methods:
The aim of this study was to verify the applicability of regional anesthesia when repairing orbital floor fractures. A retrospective chart review was performed for isolated orbital floor fractures treated at the Department of Maxillofacial Surgery in Florence between May 2011 and July 2012. The study included 135 patients who met the inclusion criteria: 96 subjects were male (71%) and 39 were female (29%). The mean age was 45.3 years, ranging from 16 to 77 years.
Results:
The results revealed that isolated anterior orbital floor fractures can be safely repaired under regional and local anesthesia. Regional and local anesthesia should be combined with intravenous sedation when the fracture involves the posterior floor. The surgical outcome was comparable to the outcome achieved under general anesthesia. There was a lower rate of surgical revisions due to concealed malposition or entrapment of the inferior rectus muscle (19% vs 22%). However, this result was not statistically significant (P > 0.05).
Conclusions:
There are several advantages to surgically repairing isolated orbital floor fractures under regional and local anesthesia that include the following: surgeons can check the surgical outcome (enophthalmos and extrinsic ocular muscles function) intraoperatively, thereby reducing the reoperation rate; patient discomfort due to general anesthesia is eliminated; and the hospital stay is reduced, thus decreasing overall healthcare costs.
doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000000039
PMCID: PMC4174218  PMID: 25289294
3.  Nanotechnology 
Executive Summary
Objective
Due to continuing advances in the development of structures, devices, and systems with a length of about 1 to 100 nanometres (nm) (1 nm is one billionth of a metre), the Medical Advisory Secretariat conducted a horizon scanning appraisal of nanotechnologies as new and emerging technologies, including an assessment of the possibly disruptive impact of future nanotechnologies.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the United States proclaimed a 2015 challenge goal of eliminating suffering and death from cancer. To help meet this goal, the NCI is engaged in a concerted effort to introduce nanotechnology “to radically change the way we diagnose, treat and prevent cancer.” It is the NCI’s position that “melding nanotechnology and cancer research and development efforts will have a profound, disruptive effect on how we diagnose, treat, and prevent cancer.”
Thus, this appraisal sought to determine the systemic effects of nanotechnologies that target, image and deliver drugs, for example, with respect to health human resources, training, and new specialties; and to assess the current status of these nanotechnologies and their projected timeline to clinical utilization.
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Cancer is a heterogeneous set of many malignant diseases. In each sex, 3 sites account for over one-half of all cancers. In women, these are the breast (28%), colorectum (13%) and lungs (12%). In men, these are the prostate (28%), lungs (15%), and the colorectum (13%).
It is estimated that 246,000 people in Ontario (2% of the population) have been diagnosed with cancer within the past 10 years and are still alive. Most were diagnosed with cancer of the breast (21%), prostate (20%), or colon or rectum (13%).
The number of new cancer cases diagnosed each year in Ontario is expected to increase from about 53,000 in 2001 to 80,000 in 2015. This represents more than a 50% increase in new cases over this period. An aging population, population growth, and rising cancer risk are thought to be the main factors that will contribute to the projected increase in the number of new cases.
The Technology Being Reviewed - Medical Advisory Secretariat Definition of Nanotechnology
First-Generation Nanotechnologies
Early application of nanotechnology-enabled products involved drug reformulation to deliver some otherwise toxic drugs (e.g., antifungal and anticancer agents) in a safer and more effective manner.
Examples of first-generation nanodevices include the following:
liposomes;
albumin bound nanoparticles;
gadolinium chelate for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
iron oxide particles for MRI;
silver nanoparticles (antibacterial wound dressing); and
nanoparticulate dental restoratives.
First-generation nanodevices have been in use for several years; therefore, they are not the focus of this report.
Second-Generation Nanotechnologies
Second-generation nanotechnologies are more sophisticated than first- generation nanotechnologies, due to novel molecular engineering that enables the devices to target, image, deliver a therapeutic agent, and monitor therapeutic efficacy in real time. Details and examples of second-generation nanodevices are discussed in the following sections of this report.
Review Strategy
The questions asked were as follows:
What is the status of these multifunctional nanotechnologies? That is, what is the projected timeline to clinical utilization?
What are the systemic effects of multifunctional nanodevices with integrated applications that target, image, and deliver drugs? That is, what are the implications of the emergence of nanotechnology on health human resources training, new specialties, etc.?
The Medical Advisory Secretariat used its usual search techniques to conduct the literature review by searching relevant databases. Outcomes of interest were improved imaging, improved sensitivity or specificity, improved response rates to therapeutic agents, and decreased toxicity.
Results
The search yielded 1 health technology assessment on nanotechnology by The Centre for Technology Assessment TA-Swiss and, in the grey literature, a technology review by RAND. These, in addition to data from the National Cancer Institute (United States) formed the basis for the conclusions of the review.
With respect to the question as to how soon until nanotechnology is used in patient care, overall, the use of second-generation nanodevices, (e.g., quantum dots [QDs]), nanoshells, dendrimers) that can potentially target, image, and deliver drugs; and image cell response to therapy in real time are still in the preclinical benchwork stage.
Table 1 summarizes the projected timelines to clinical utilization.
Summary of Timelines to Clinical Use*
NCI refers to National Cancer Institute; QD, quantum dot.
Medical Advisory Secretariat Estimated Timeline for Ontario
Upon synthesizing the estimated timelines from the NCI, the Swiss technology assessment and the RAND reports (Figure 1), it appears that:
the clinical use of separate imaging and therapeutic nanodevices is estimated to start occurring around 2010;
the clinical use of combined imaging and therapeutic nanodevices is estimated to start occurring around 2020;
changes in the way disease is diagnosed, treated and monitored are anticipated; and
the full (and realistic) extent of these changes within the next 10 to 20 years is uncertain.
Medical Advisory Secretariat Estimated Timeline for the Clinical Use of Second-Generation Nanodevices in Ontario
With respect to the question on potential systemic effects of second-generation nanodevices (i.e., the implications of the emergence of these nanodevices on health human resources training, new specialties etc.), Table 2 summarizes the findings from the review.
Potential Systemic Effects Caused by Second Generation Nanodevices*
MRI indicates magnetic resonance imaging; PSA, prostate-specific antigen; QD, quantum dot.
Uncertainties Not Addressed in the Literature
The United States National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) funds a variety of research in the economic, ethical, legal, and cultural implications of the use of nanotechnology, as well as the implications for science, education and quality of life.
There are many uncertainties that are sparsely or not addressed at all in the literature regarding second generation nanodevices. These include the following:
long-term stability and toxicology of nanodevices;
cost-effectiveness of nanodevices;
refinement of specific targeting;
effects on hospitals, physician/nurse training, creation/removal of specialties; and
that pertaining to the question, where does disease begin if therapy is applied before the symptoms have appeared?
PMCID: PMC3379172  PMID: 23074489
4.  Inclusion of Ethical Issues in Dementia Guidelines: A Thematic Text Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001498.
Background
Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) aim to improve professionalism in health care. However, current CPG development manuals fail to address how to include ethical issues in a systematic and transparent manner. The objective of this study was to assess the representation of ethical issues in general CPGs on dementia care.
Methods and Findings
To identify national CPGs on dementia care, five databases of guidelines were searched and national psychiatric associations were contacted in August 2011 and in June 2013. A framework for the assessment of the identified CPGs' ethical content was developed on the basis of a prior systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Thematic text analysis and a 4-point rating score were employed to assess how ethical issues were addressed in the identified CPGs. Twelve national CPGs were included. Thirty-one ethical issues in dementia care were identified by the prior systematic review. The proportion of these 31 ethical issues that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% to 77%, with a median of 49.5%. National guidelines differed substantially with respect to (a) which ethical issues were represented, (b) whether ethical recommendations were included, (c) whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and (d) to what extent the ethical issues were explained.
Conclusions
Ethical issues were inconsistently addressed in national dementia guidelines, with some guidelines including most and some including few ethical issues. Guidelines should address ethical issues and how to deal with them to help the medical profession understand how to approach care of patients with dementia, and for patients, their relatives, and the general public, all of whom might seek information and advice in national guidelines. There is a need for further research to specify how detailed ethical issues and their respective recommendations can and should be addressed in dementia guidelines.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
Background
In the past, doctors tended to rely on their own experience to choose the best treatment for their patients. Faced with a patient with dementia (a brain disorder that affects short-term memory and the ability tocarry out normal daily activities), for example, a doctor would use his/her own experience to help decide whether the patient should remain at home or would be better cared for in a nursing home. Similarly, the doctor might have to decide whether antipsychotic drugs might be necessary to reduce behavioral or psychological symptoms such as restlessness or shouting. However, over the past two decades, numerous evidence-based clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have been produced by governmental bodies and medical associations that aim to improve standards of clinical competence and professionalism in health care. During the development of each guideline, experts search the medical literature for the current evidence about the diagnosis and treatment of a disease, evaluate the quality of that evidence, and then make recommendations based on the best evidence available.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, CPG development manuals do not address how to include ethical issues in CPGs. A health-care professional is ethical if he/she behaves in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the medical profession. More specifically, medical professionalism is based on a set of binding ethical principles—respect for patient autonomy, beneficence, non-malfeasance (the “do no harm” principle), and justice. In particular, CPG development manuals do not address disease-specific ethical issues (DSEIs), clinical ethical situations that are relevant to the management of a specific disease. So, for example, a DSEI that arises in dementia care is the conflict between the ethical principles of non-malfeasance and patient autonomy (freedom-to-move-at-will). Thus, healthcare professionals may have to decide to physically restrain a patient with dementia to prevent the patient doing harm to him- or herself or to someone else. Given the lack of guidance on how to address ethical issues in CPG development manuals, in this thematic text analysis, the researchers assess the representation of ethical issues in CPGs on general dementia care. Thematic text analysis uses a framework for the assessment of qualitative data (information that is word-based rather than number-based) that involves pinpointing, examining, and recording patterns (themes) among the available data.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 12 national CPGs on dementia care by searching guideline databases and by contacting national psychiatric associations. They developed a framework for the assessment of the ethical content in these CPGs based on a previous systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Of the 31 DSEIs included by the researchers in their analysis, the proportion that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% (Switzerland) to 77% (USA); on average the CPGs explicitly addressed half of the DSEIs. Four DSEIs—adequate consideration of advanced directives in decision making, usage of GPS and other monitoring techniques, covert medication, and dealing with suicidal thinking—were not addressed in at least 11 of the CPGs. The inclusion of recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs ranged from 10% of DSEIs covered in the Swiss CPG to 71% covered in the US CPG. Overall, national guidelines differed substantially with respect to which ethical issues were included, whether ethical recommendations were included, whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and to what extent the ethical issues were clearly explained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that national CPGs on dementia care already address clinical ethical issues but that the extent to which the spectrum of DSEIs is considered varies widely within and between CPGs. They also indicate that recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs often lack the evidence that health-care professionals use to justify their clinical decisions. The researchers suggest that this situation can and should be improved, although more research is needed to determine how ethical issues and recommendations should be addressed in dementia guidelines. A more systematic and transparent inclusion of DSEIs in CPGs for dementia (and for other conditions) would further support the concept of medical professionalism as a core element of CPGs, note the researchers, but is also important for patients and their relatives who might turn to national CPGs for information and guidance at a stressful time of life.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001498.
Wikipedia contains a page on clinical practice guidelines (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US National Guideline Clearinghouse provides information on national guidelines, including CPGs for dementia
The Guidelines International Network promotes the systematic development and application of clinical practice guidelines
The American Medical Association provides information about medical ethics; the British Medical Association provides information on all aspects of ethics and includes an essential tool kit that introduces common ethical problems and practical ways to deal with them
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about dementia, including a personal story about dealing with dementia
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about dementia and about Alzheimers disease, a specific type of dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics provides the report Dementia: ethical issues and additional information on the public consultation on ethical issues in dementia care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001498
PMCID: PMC3742442  PMID: 23966839
5.  Encouraging patients and family caregivers to assert a more active role during care hand-offs: The Care Transitions Intervention™ 
What is the model
During a 4-week program, patients with complex care needs and family caregivers receive specific tools and work with a ‘Transitions Coach,’ to learn self-management skills that will ensure their needs are met during the transition from hospital to home. This is a low-cost, low-intensity intervention comprised of a home visit and three phone calls.
What makes this model unique
In contrast to traditional case management approaches, the Care Transitions Intervention is a self-management model. The Care Transitions Program has modeled national Medicare data sets to demonstrate the frequency with which older adults making care transitions across settings will experience another transition in the near future. In other words, for most of these individuals, there will be a ‘next time’. Using qualitative techniques, the Care Transitions Program worked with older adults to identify the key self-management skills needed to assert a more active role in their care. Next, a Transition Coach was introduced to help impart these skills and help the individual and the family caregiver become more confident in this new role. Although critics are quick to point out that this is only applicable to highly educated or motivated patients, our studies have shown that most patients and family caregivers are able to become engaged and do considerably more for themselves.
In essence, the model involves making an investment in helping patients and family caregivers become more comfortable and competent in participating in their care during care transitions. Five months after the Transition Coach signed off, these patients continued to remain out of the hospital demonstrating a sustained effect from coaching.
The intervention focuses on four conceptual domains referred to as pillars
1. Medication self-management
2. Use of a dynamic patient-centered record, the personal health record
3. Timely primary care/specialty care follow-up
4. Knowledge of red flags that indicate a worsening in their condition and how to respond
What are the key findings
Patients who received this program were significantly less likely to be readmitted to the hospital, and the benefits were sustained for five months after the end of the one-month intervention. Thus, rather than simply managing post-hospital care in a reactive manner, imparting self-management skills pays dividends long after the program ends. Anticipated net cost savings for a typical coach panel of 350 chronically ill adults with an initial hospitalization over 12 months is USD$ 295,594. Patients who received this program were also more likely to achieve self-identified personal goals around symptom management and functional recovery. To date more than 160 organizations have adopted the care transitions intervention.
Project sponsors
The John A. Hartford Foundation and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Where Can I Learn More?
Please visit www.caretransitions.org or email: Eric.Coleman@ucdenver.edu
PMCID: PMC2807117
care transitions
6.  Medical students' views about an undergraduate curriculum in psychiatry before and after clinical placements 
Background
It has been suggested that medical students wish to focus their learning in psychiatry on general skills that are applicable to all doctors. This study seeks to establish what aspects of psychiatry students perceive to be relevant to their future careers and what psychiatric knowledge and skills they consider to be important. It is relevant to consider whether these expectations about learning needs vary prior to and post-placement in psychiatry. To what extent these opinions should influence curriculum development needs to be assessed.
Methods
A questionnaire was distributed to medical students before they commenced their psychiatry placement and after they had completed it. The questionnaire considered the relevance of psychiatry to their future careers, the relevance of particular knowledge and skills, the utility of knowledge of psychiatric specialties and the utility of different settings for learning psychiatry.
Results
The students felt skills relevant to all doctors, such as assessment of suicide risk, were more important than more specialist psychiatric skills, such as the management of schizophrenia. They felt that knowledge of how psychiatric illnesses present in general practice was important and it was a useful setting in which to learn psychiatry. They thought that conditions that are commonly seen in the general hospital are important and that liaison psychiatry was useful.
Conclusion
Two ways that medical students believe their teaching can be made more relevant to their future careers are highlighted in this study. Firstly, there is a need to focus on scenarios which students will commonly encounter in their initial years of employment. Secondly, psychiatry should be better integrated into the overall curriculum, with the opportunity for teaching in different settings. However, when developing curricula the need to listen to what students believe they should learn needs to be balanced against the necessity of teaching the fundamentals and principles of a speciality.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-8-26
PMCID: PMC2383892  PMID: 18439278
7.  Using Rule-Based Machine Learning for Candidate Disease Gene Prioritization and Sample Classification of Cancer Gene Expression Data 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39932.
Microarray data analysis has been shown to provide an effective tool for studying cancer and genetic diseases. Although classical machine learning techniques have successfully been applied to find informative genes and to predict class labels for new samples, common restrictions of microarray analysis such as small sample sizes, a large attribute space and high noise levels still limit its scientific and clinical applications. Increasing the interpretability of prediction models while retaining a high accuracy would help to exploit the information content in microarray data more effectively. For this purpose, we evaluate our rule-based evolutionary machine learning systems, BioHEL and GAssist, on three public microarray cancer datasets, obtaining simple rule-based models for sample classification. A comparison with other benchmark microarray sample classifiers based on three diverse feature selection algorithms suggests that these evolutionary learning techniques can compete with state-of-the-art methods like support vector machines. The obtained models reach accuracies above 90% in two-level external cross-validation, with the added value of facilitating interpretation by using only combinations of simple if-then-else rules. As a further benefit, a literature mining analysis reveals that prioritizations of informative genes extracted from BioHEL’s classification rule sets can outperform gene rankings obtained from a conventional ensemble feature selection in terms of the pointwise mutual information between relevant disease terms and the standardized names of top-ranked genes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039932
PMCID: PMC3394775  PMID: 22808075
8.  Harmonising Evidence-based medicine teaching: a study of the outcomes of e-learning in five European countries 
Background
We developed and evaluated the outcomes of an e-learning course for evidence based medicine (EBM) training in postgraduate medical education in different languages and settings across five European countries.
Methods
We measured changes in knowledge and attitudes with well-developed assessment tools before and after administration of the course. The course consisted of five e-learning modules covering acquisition (formulating a question and search of the literature), appraisal, application and implementation of findings from systematic reviews of therapeutic interventions, each with interactive audio-visual learning materials of 15 to 20 minutes duration. The modules were prepared in English, Spanish, German and Hungarian. The course was delivered to 101 students from different specialties in Germany (psychiatrists), Hungary (mixture of specialties), Spain (general medical practitioners), Switzerland (obstetricians-gynaecologists) and the UK (obstetricians-gynaecologists). We analysed changes in scores across modules and countries.
Results
On average across all countries, knowledge scores significantly improved from pre- to post-course for all five modules (p < 0.001). The improvements in scores were on average 1.87 points (14% of total score) for module 1, 1.81 points (26% of total score) for module 2, 1.9 points (11% of total score) for module 3, 1.9 points (12% of total score) for module 4 and 1.14 points (14% of total score) for module 5. In the country specific analysis, knowledge gain was not significant for module 4 in Spain, Switzerland and the UK, for module 3 in Spain and Switzerland and for module 2 in Spain. Compared to pre-course assessment, after completing the course participants felt more confident that they can assess research evidence and that the healthcare system in their country should have its own programme of research about clinical effectiveness.
Conclusion
E-learning in EBM can be harmonised for effective teaching and learning in different languages, educational settings and clinical specialties, paving the way for development of an international e-EBM course.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-8-27
PMCID: PMC2386125  PMID: 18442424
9.  ACTIVE IMMUNITY PRODUCED BY SO CALLED BALANCED OR NEUTRAL MIXTURES OF DIPHTHERIA TOXIN AND ANTITOXIN 
The foregoing and earlier data taken together demonstrate that an active immunity lasting several years can be produced in guinea-pigs, by the injection of toxin-antitoxin mixtures which have no recognizable harmful effect either immediate or remote. They also show, what might have been anticipated, that under the same conditions mixtures which produce local lesions and which, therefore, contain an excess of toxin produce a much higher degree of immunity than the neutral mixtures, and that an excess of antitoxin reduces the possibility of producing an active immunity, and may extinguish it altogether. There is, therefore, a certain definite relation between the components of the mixture and the degree of immunity producible. Furthermore, toxin-antitoxin mixtures do not change materially within five days at room temperature. They are apparently more efficacious at the end of forty-eight hours than immediately after preparation. The experiments finally prove that a relatively high degree of active immunity can be induced by a harmless procedure, whereas the use of toxin alone leading to very severe local lesions is incapable of producing more than an insignificant protection. The method, therefore, invites further tests in regard to its ultimate applicability to the human being. Unless the subcutis of the guinea-pig reacts to toxin-antitoxin mixtures in a manner peculiar to itself, a practical, easily controlled method for active immunization can be worked out which should afford a larger protection than the serum alone and avoid the complications associated with horse serum. That proportion of toxin and antitoxin which would produce the highest desirable immunity consistent with the least discomfort would have to be carefully worked out for the human subject. From the nature of the immunity induced it is obvious, however, that such a method of immunization cannot take the place of a large dose of antitoxin in exposed individuals who must be protected at once. It would be applicable only as a general protective measure without reference to any immediate danger, since it would take several weeks, perhaps longer, to perfect the attainable immunity. Passing to the theoretical aspects of the facts observed, we find no publications bearing directly upon the subject before us. Madsen has, however, approached it very closely in his experiments on the immunization of animals with mixtures not fully balanced, or, in other words, in which the "toxones" were still free. He found that the injection of such mixtures in rabbits, goats and horses produces an active immunity. He makes the significant remark that perhaps in the immunizing capacity we may possess the keenest reagent for a poison which is not able to exert any toxic action in the body. This is fully borne out by the experiments described, for in these we pass beyond the visible spectrum, so to speak, of the toxin-antitoxin effects, and we are able to recognize toxic action only by the lasting immunizing effects. Another publication which touches upon some phases of the same problem is that of Morgenroth on the union between toxin and antitoxin. Morgenroth brought out the fact that a given toxin-antitoxin mixture is more toxic when injected directly into the circulation than when injected under the skin. Thus, an L+ dose of 0.78 c.c. toxin + one unit antitoxin applied subcutaneously was of the same toxicity as 0.68 c.c. toxin + one unit antitoxin injected into the circulation. When the mixture had stood twenty-four hours this (L+) dose was still 0.78 c.c. subcutaneously, but it had risen to 0.74 c.c. when introduced by the intracardiac route. The author makes two deductions from these results. He assumes that the velocity of reaction between toxin and antitoxin is slow, and that the union is not completed until the mixture has stood twenty-four hours. Hence, the L+ dose of toxin injected into the blood is higher after twenty-four hours than immediately after mixing the toxin and antitoxin. He furthermore explains the fact that the subcutaneous L+ dose remains the same whether the mixture is injected at once or after twenty-four hours, by assuming that in the subcutis of the guinea-pig there is a catalytic acceleration of the union of toxin and antitoxin. In view of the writer's results it seems that not only immediately, but four to five days after the preparation of the mixture of toxin and antitoxin, there are still toxic substances available for the production of immunity in the body of the guinea-pig, when the dose of toxin in the mixture is far below the L0 or neutral level. These toxins may be free, either because uncombined in vitro, or else because the mixture is partially dissociated in vivo, or there may be a third possibility. It is obvious that Morgenroth's investigations, however extensive and thorough, have not exhausted the subject, for both these inferences are incompatible with his. Perhaps his recent important studies on the recovery of toxin from its combination with antitoxin with weak acids may throw more light on this subject. The only conclusion which we may safely draw at this time is that the toxin-antitoxin mixture produces two sets of effects, essentially identical, however. One is visible, as injury (œdema, loss of hair, superficial and deep necrosis of skin, paralysis and death), and corresponds to the toxin spectrum of Ehrlich. The other is invisible and manifests itself only in degrees of active immunity. At what ratio of toxin to antitoxin in the mixture active immunity is no longer produced will vary somewhat with the guinea-pig used, but it is evident that traces of immunity are still transmitted to the young when the amount of toxin approaches half the L0 dose.
PMCID: PMC2124709  PMID: 19867246
10.  Prior Knowledge Enhances the Category Dimensionality Effect 
Memory & cognition  2008;36(2):256-270.
A study of the combined influence of prior knowledge and stimulus dimensionality on category learning was conducted. Subjects learned category structures with the same number of necessary dimensions but more or fewer additional redundant dimensions, and with either knowledge-related or knowledge-unrelated features. Minimal-learning models predict that all subjects, regardless of condition, should learn either the same number of dimensions, or else should respond more slowly to each dimension. Despite similar learning rates and response times, subjects learned more features in the high-dimensional than in the low-dimensional condition. Furthermore, prior knowledge interacted with dimensionality, increasing what was learned especially in the high-dimensional case. A second experiment confirmed that the participants did in fact learn more features during the training phase, rather than simply inferring them at test. These effects can be explained by direct associations among features (representing prior knowledge) combined with feedback between features and the category label, as shown by simulations of the knowledge-resonance, or KRES, model of category learning.
PMCID: PMC2586994  PMID: 18426059
11.  Development of anesthesiology and medical service in KSA 1956-2011 
In this historical report, a new light is shed on details of the development of anesthesiology and medical service in Kingdom Saudi Arabia 1956-2011. What Dr. Al-khawashki has done between the period of 1956-1980 was commendable. He has found himself and few anesthetists from Egypt and Pakistan in the front of huge task. The shortage of anesthetists worldwide and the increasing surgical specialties in Saudi Arabia, imposed a huge dilemma on the service. In order to face this problem, there was only one way to cover the continuous expanding surgical services by establishing technical institutes to produce anesthesia technicians able to work under supervision of consultants. This was known as the technician's era. It continued for a long period, but the changes were introduced from 1980 onwards by me. This was the era of the development of an up-to-date anesthesia service from 1980-2011. the first, developing the-state-of- the-art anesthesia services in the university hospitals. Second, the Saudi Anaesthetic Association was established under the auspices of the King Saud University. Third, this period culminated by starting the residency training programmes in the country and the Arab world. Moreover the Saudi specialty of anaesthesia and intensive care graduated over 60 specialists and has 98 residents up till now in the programme. Finally three subspecialties fellowships in critical care, cardiac, and pediatric anesthesia were established. The total number of Saudi anaesthetists jumped from one or two anaesthetists in the seventies to almost 300 in 2011. The numbers of consultants or senior registrar are over 160 and the rest are residents in the training program nationally and internationally.
doi:10.4103/0259-1162.108317
PMCID: PMC4173470
Alexandria University; GalalAref; I. Al-Khawashki; Mohammed Abdulla Seraj; development of anesthesia practice; saudi arabia
12.  Older Adults’ Pain Descriptions 
The purpose of this study was to describe the types of pain information described by older adults with chronic osteoarthritis pain. Pain descriptions were obtained from older adults’ who participated in a posttest only double blind study testing how the phrasing of healthcare practitioners’ pain questions affected the amount of communicated pain information. The 207 community dwelling older adults were randomized to respond to either the open-ended or closed-ended pain question. They viewed and orally responded to a computer displayed videotape of a practitioner asking them the respective pain question. All then viewed and responded to the general follow up question, ““What else can you tell me?” and lastly, “What else can you tell me about your pain, aches, soreness or discomfort?” Audio-taped responses were transcribed and content analyzed by trained, independent raters using 16 a priori criteria from the American Pain Society (2002) Guidelines for the Management of Pain in Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Juvenile Chronic Arthritis. Older adults described important but limited types of information primarily about pain location, timing, and intensity. Pain treatment information was elicited after repeated questioning. Therefore, practitioners need to follow up older adults’ initial pain descriptions with pain questions that promote a more complete pain management discussion. Routine use of a multidimensional pain assessment instrument that measures information such as functional interference, current pain treatments, treatment effects, and side effects would be one way of insuring a more complete pain management discussion with older adults.
doi:10.1016/j.pmn.2008.09.004
PMCID: PMC2734091  PMID: 19706351
pain; communication; geriatrics; arthritis
13.  Can the chronic administration of the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone block dopaminergic activity causing anti-reward and relapse potential? 
Molecular neurobiology  2011;44(3):250-268.
Opiate addiction is associated with many adverse health and social harms, fatal overdose, infectious disease transmission, elevated health care costs, public disorder, and crime. Although community-based addiction treatment programs continue to reduce the harms of opiate addiction with narcotic substitution therapy such as methadone maintenance, there remains a need to find a substance that not only blocks opiate-type receptors (mu, delta, etc.) but also provides agonistic activity; hence the impetus arose for the development of a combination of narcotic antagonism and mu receptor agonist therapy. After three decades of extensive research the federal Drug Abuse Treatment Act 2000 (DATA) opened a window of opportunity for patients with addiction disorders by providing increased access to options for treatment. DATA allows physicians who complete a brief specialty-training course to become certified to prescribe buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone (Subutex, Suboxone) for treatment of patients with opioid dependence. Clinical studies indicate buprenorphine maintenance is as effective as methadone maintenance in retaining patients in substance abuse treatment and in reducing illicit opioid use. With that stated, we must consider the long-term benefits or potential toxicity attributed to Subutex or Suboxone. We describe a mechanism whereby chronic blockade of opiate receptors, in spite of only partial opiate agonist action, may ultimately block dopaminergic activity causing anti-reward and relapse potential. While the direct comparison is not as yet available, toxicity to buprenorphine can be found in the scientific literature. In considering our cautionary note in this commentary, we are cognizant that to date this is what we have available, and until such a time when the real magic bullet is discovered, we will have to endure. However, more than anything else this commentary should at least encourage the development of thoughtful new strategies to target the specific brain regions responsible for relapse prevention.
doi:10.1007/s12035-011-8206-0
PMCID: PMC3682495  PMID: 21948099
14.  Inferring on the Intentions of Others by Hierarchical Bayesian Learning 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(9):e1003810.
Inferring on others' (potentially time-varying) intentions is a fundamental problem during many social transactions. To investigate the underlying mechanisms, we applied computational modeling to behavioral data from an economic game in which 16 pairs of volunteers (randomly assigned to “player” or “adviser” roles) interacted. The player performed a probabilistic reinforcement learning task, receiving information about a binary lottery from a visual pie chart. The adviser, who received more predictive information, issued an additional recommendation. Critically, the game was structured such that the adviser's incentives to provide helpful or misleading information varied in time. Using a meta-Bayesian modeling framework, we found that the players' behavior was best explained by the deployment of hierarchical learning: they inferred upon the volatility of the advisers' intentions in order to optimize their predictions about the validity of their advice. Beyond learning, volatility estimates also affected the trial-by-trial variability of decisions: participants were more likely to rely on their estimates of advice accuracy for making choices when they believed that the adviser's intentions were presently stable. Finally, our model of the players' inference predicted the players' interpersonal reactivity index (IRI) scores, explicit ratings of the advisers' helpfulness and the advisers' self-reports on their chosen strategy. Overall, our results suggest that humans (i) employ hierarchical generative models to infer on the changing intentions of others, (ii) use volatility estimates to inform decision-making in social interactions, and (iii) integrate estimates of advice accuracy with non-social sources of information. The Bayesian framework presented here can quantify individual differences in these mechanisms from simple behavioral readouts and may prove useful in future clinical studies of maladaptive social cognition.
Author Summary
The ability to decode another person's intentions is a critical component of social interactions. This is particularly important when we have to make decisions based on someone else's advice. Our research proposes that this complex cognitive skill (social learning) can be translated into a mathematical model, which prescribes a mechanism for mentally simulating another person's intentions. This study demonstrates that this process can be parsimoniously described as the deployment of hierarchical learning. In other words, participants learn about two quantities: the intentions of the person they interact with and the veracity of the recommendations they offer. As participants become more and more confident about their representation of the other's intentions, they make decisions more in accordance with the advice they receive. Importantly, our modeling framework captures individual differences in the social learning process: The estimated “learning fingerprint” can predict other aspects of participants' behavior, such as their perspective-taking abilities and their explicit ratings of the adviser's level of trustworthiness. The present modeling approach can be further applied in the context of psychiatry to identify maladaptive learning processes in disorders where social learning processes are particularly impaired, such as schizophrenia.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003810
PMCID: PMC4154656  PMID: 25187943
15.  On Finding and Using Identifiable Parameter Combinations in Nonlinear Dynamic Systems Biology Models and COMBOS: A Novel Web Implementation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110261.
Parameter identifiability problems can plague biomodelers when they reach the quantification stage of development, even for relatively simple models. Structural identifiability (SI) is the primary question, usually understood as knowing which of P unknown biomodel parameters p1,…, pi,…, pP are-and which are not-quantifiable in principle from particular input-output (I-O) biodata. It is not widely appreciated that the same database also can provide quantitative information about the structurally unidentifiable (not quantifiable) subset, in the form of explicit algebraic relationships among unidentifiable pi. Importantly, this is a first step toward finding what else is needed to quantify particular unidentifiable parameters of interest from new I–O experiments. We further develop, implement and exemplify novel algorithms that address and solve the SI problem for a practical class of ordinary differential equation (ODE) systems biology models, as a user-friendly and universally-accessible web application (app)–COMBOS. Users provide the structural ODE and output measurement models in one of two standard forms to a remote server via their web browser. COMBOS provides a list of uniquely and non-uniquely SI model parameters, and–importantly-the combinations of parameters not individually SI. If non-uniquely SI, it also provides the maximum number of different solutions, with important practical implications. The behind-the-scenes symbolic differential algebra algorithms are based on computing Gröbner bases of model attributes established after some algebraic transformations, using the computer-algebra system Maxima. COMBOS was developed for facile instructional and research use as well as modeling. We use it in the classroom to illustrate SI analysis; and have simplified complex models of tumor suppressor p53 and hormone regulation, based on explicit computation of parameter combinations. It’s illustrated and validated here for models of moderate complexity, with and without initial conditions. Built-in examples include unidentifiable 2 to 4-compartment and HIV dynamics models.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110261
PMCID: PMC4211654  PMID: 25350289
16.  Patient autonomy in chronic care: solving a paradox 
The application of the principle of autonomy, which is considered a cornerstone of contemporary bioethics, is sometimes in obvious contradiction with the principle of beneficence. Indeed, it may happen in chronic care that the preferences of the health care provider (HCP), who is largely focused on the prevention of long term complications of diseases, differ from those, more present oriented, preferences of the patient. The aims of this narrative review are as follows: 1) to show that the exercise of autonomy by the patient is not always possible; 2) where the latter is not possible, to examine how, in the context of the autonomy principle, someone (a HCP) can decide what is good (a treatment) for someone else (a patient) without falling into paternalism. Actually this analysis leads to a paradox: not only is the principle of beneficence sometimes conflicting with the principle of autonomy, but physician’s beneficence may enter into conflict with the mere respect of the patient; and 3) to propose a solution to this paradox by revisiting the very concepts of the autonomous person, patient education, and trust in the patient–physician relationship: this article provides an ethical definition of patient education.
doi:10.2147/PPA.S55022
PMCID: PMC3865080  PMID: 24376345
preference; autonomy; person; reflexivity; empathy; sympathy; patient education; trust; respect; care
17.  NHS waiting lists and evidence of national or local failure: analysis of health service data 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2003;326(7382):188.
Objectives
To investigate the national distribution of prolonged waiting for elective day case and inpatient surgery, and to examine associations of prolonged waiting with markers of NHS capacity, activity in the independent sector, and need.
Setting
NHS hospital trusts in England.
Population
People waiting for elective treatment in the specialties of general surgery; ear, nose and throat surgery; ophthalmic surgery; and trauma and orthopaedic surgery.
Main outcome measure
Numbers of people waiting six months or longer (prolonged waiting). Characteristics of trusts with large numbers waiting six months or longer were examined by using logistic regression.
Results
The distribution of numbers of people waiting for day case or elective surgery in all the specialties examined was highly positively skewed. Between 52% and 83% of patients waiting longer than six months in the specialties studied were found in one quarter of trusts, which in turn contributed 23-45% of the national throughput specific to the specialty. In general, there was little evidence to show that capacity (measured by numbers of operating theatres, dedicated day case theatres, available beds, and bed occupancy rate) or independent sector activity were associated with prolonged waiting, although exceptions were noted for individual specialties. There was consistent evidence showing an increase in prolonged waiting, with increased numbers of anaesthetists across all specialties and with increased bed occupancy rates for ear, nose and throat surgery. Markers of greater need for health care, such as deprivation score and rate of limiting long term illness, were inversely associated with prolonged waiting.
Conclusion
In most instances, substantial numbers of patients waiting unacceptably long periods for elective surgery were limited to a small number of hospitals. Little and inconsistent support was found for associations of prolonged waiting with markers of capacity, independent sector activity, or need in the surgical specialties examined.
What is already known about this topicMany patients wait unacceptably long times for NHS surgeryThe size of waiting lists is of little relevance to understanding access to treatmentEvidence is scant for the common assumption that the waiting problem arises from a global mismatch between supply and demand and can be solved either by greater rationing or by increasing NHS capacityWhat this study addsLong waiting lists are not an indication of a general failure of the NHSOne quarter of hospital trusts contribute between half and four fifths of the patients waiting six months or longerMeasures of capacity (such as beds, operating theatres, doctors) and independent sector activity are not generally associated with prolonged waiting
PMCID: PMC140273  PMID: 12543833
18.  Ethical Choice in the Medical Applications of Information Theory 
Background
Alongside advances in medical information technology (IT), there is mounting physician and patient dissatisfaction with present-day clinical practice. The effect of introducing increasingly complex medical IT on the ethical dimension of the clinical physician’s primary task (identified as direct patient care) can be scrutinized through analysis of the EMR software platform.
Questions/purposes
We therefore (1) identify IT changes burdensome to the clinician in performing patient care and which therefore lower quality of care; and (2) suggest methods for clinicians to maintain high quality patient care as IT demands increase.
Methods
Elemental relationships from information theory and physical chemistry are applied to the profit-generating creation and flow of medical information between patients, physicians, administrators, suppliers, and insurers. Ethical implications for patient care and the doctor-patient relationship are drawn in the light of these relationships.
Where are we now?
Little has been accomplished, or even discussed, regarding limiting healthcare IT growth. Quality of patient care is expected to suffer unless physicians carefully scrutinize, refine and occasionally reject portions of the increasing healthcare IT burden being placed upon them.
Where do we need to go?
Better medicine, simply understood as more effective prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal disease, is our professional goal. We need to establish mechanisms whereby we can limit, control or even reverse IT changes that hinder this goal. Clinicians must confront the negative impact many healthcare IT changes have on patient care.
How do we get there?
Suggestions for maintaining high standards of practice in the face of the new IT burden include: (1) Increasing IT time-awareness. Clinicians should examine actual time spent in clinical versus computer-based activity and implement changes if that ratio is too high. (2) Increasing IT goal awareness. (3) Examine the software creating a medical record to see how much of what it records is there for financial, as opposed to medical reasons. Is the software helping my patient or someone else’s bottom line? Is it for talking to colleagues about sick people or to insurance companies?
doi:10.1007/s11999-010-1466-6
PMCID: PMC3049638  PMID: 20668973
19.  A content analysis from a US statewide survey of memorable healthcare decisions for individuals with intellectual disability 
Background
Little is known about surrogate healthcare decision-making for individuals with intellectual disability (ID). This study examined healthcare decision-making by residential-agency directors to learn their process and the extent to which the individual is included.
Method
Content analysis of qualitative data from a mailed survey of residential-agency directors in a large US mid-Atlantic state.
Results
Narrative comments of 102 directors (65% of respondents) are reported. Three themes emerged: (a) Identifying someone else’s “best interest” is challenging; (b) Perceptions of the healthcare community, especially related to quality of life, can influence care provided; and (c) Surrogate decision-making is a team effort.
Conclusions
With knowledge of how decisions are made, the healthcare community can better interact with the complex array of service agencies and persons who determine care for this vulnerable population.
doi:10.1080/13668250903083332
PMCID: PMC2862000  PMID: 19681006
surrogate healthcare decision-making; intellectual disability; healthcare decision-making; qualitative methods; content analysis
20.  Olfactory bulb encoding during learning under anesthesia 
Neural plasticity changes within the olfactory bulb are important for olfactory learning, although how neural encoding changes support new associations with specific odors and whether they can be investigated under anesthesia, remain unclear. Using the social transmission of food preference olfactory learning paradigm in mice in conjunction with in vivo microdialysis sampling we have shown firstly that a learned preference for a scented food odor smelled on the breath of a demonstrator animal occurs under isofluorane anesthesia. Furthermore, subsequent exposure to this cued odor under anesthesia promotes the same pattern of increased release of glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the olfactory bulb as previously found in conscious animals following olfactory learning, and evoked GABA release was positively correlated with the amount of scented food eaten. In a second experiment, multiarray (24 electrodes) electrophysiological recordings were made from olfactory bulb mitral cells under isofluorane anesthesia before, during and after a novel scented food odor was paired with carbon disulfide. Results showed significant increases in overall firing frequency to the cued-odor during and after learning and decreases in response to an uncued odor. Analysis of patterns of changes in individual neurons revealed that a substantial proportion (>50%) of them significantly changed their response profiles during and after learning with most of those previously inhibited becoming excited. A large number of cells exhibiting no response to the odors prior to learning were either excited or inhibited afterwards. With the uncued odor many previously responsive cells became unresponsive or inhibited. Learning associated changes only occurred in the posterior part of the olfactory bulb. Thus olfactory learning under anesthesia promotes extensive, but spatially distinct, changes in mitral cell networks to both cued and uncued odors as well as in evoked glutamate and GABA release.
doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00193
PMCID: PMC4046573  PMID: 24926241
anesthesia; microdialysis; mitral cells; multiarray electrophysiology; neurotransmitters; olfactory bulb; olfactory learning; social transmission of food preference
21.  Reducing Patients’ Unmet Concerns in Primary Care: the Difference One Word Can Make 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2007;22(10):1429-1433.
Context
In primary, acute-care visits, patients frequently present with more than 1 concern. Various visit factors prevent additional concerns from being articulated and addressed.
Objective
To test an intervention to reduce patients’ unmet concerns.
Design
Cross-sectional comparison of 2 experimental questions, with videotaping of office visits and pre and postvisit surveys.
Setting
Twenty outpatient offices of community-based physicians equally divided between Los Angeles County and a midsized town in Pennsylvania.
Participants
A volunteer sample of 20 family physicians (participation rate = 80%) and 224 patients approached consecutively within physicians (participation rate = 73%; approximately 11 participating for each enrolled physician) seeking care for an acute condition.
Intervention
After seeing 4 nonintervention patients, physicians were randomly assigned to solicit additional concerns by asking 1 of the following 2 questions after patients presented their chief concern: “Is there anything else you want to address in the visit today?” (ANY condition) and “Is there something else you want to address in the visit today?” (SOME condition).
Main Outcome Measures
Patients’ unmet concerns: concerns listed on previsit surveys but not addressed during visits, visit time, unanticipated concerns: concerns that were addressed during the visit but not listed on previsit surveys.
Results
Relative to nonintervention cases, the implemented SOME intervention eliminated 78% of unmet concerns (odds ratio (OR) = .154, p = .001). The ANY intervention could not be significantly distinguished from the control condition (p = .122). Neither intervention affected visit length, or patients’; expression of unanticipated concerns not listed in previsit surveys.
Conclusions
Patients’ unmet concerns can be dramatically reduced by a simple inquiry framed in the SOME form. Both the learning and implementation of the intervention require very little time.
doi:10.1007/s11606-007-0279-0
PMCID: PMC2305862  PMID: 17674111
unmet concerns; unanticipated concerns; intervention; care; physician-patient communication
22.  Specialty choice in UK junior doctors: Is psychiatry the least popular specialty for UK and international medical graduates? 
Background
In the UK and many other countries, many specialties have had longstanding problems with recruitment and have increasingly relied on international medical graduates to fill junior and senior posts. We aimed to determine what specialties were the most popular and desirable among candidates for training posts, and whether this differed by country of undergraduate training.
Methods
We conducted a database analysis of applications to Modernising Medical Careers for all training posts in England in 2008. Total number of applications (as an index of popularity) and applications per vacancy (as an index of desirability) were analysed for ten different specialties. We tested whether mean consultant incomes correlated with specialty choice.
Results
In, 2008, there were 80,949 applications for specialty training in England, of which 31,434 were UK graduates (39%). Among UK medical graduates, psychiatry was the sixth most popular specialty (999 applicants) out of 10 specialty groups, while it was fourth for international graduates (5,953 applicants). Among UK graduates, surgery (9.4 applicants per vacancy) and radiology (8.0) had the highest number of applicants per vacancy and paediatrics (1.2) and psychiatry (1.1) the lowest. Among international medical graduates, psychiatry had the fourth highest number of applicants per place (6.3). Specialty popularity for UK graduates was correlated with predicted income (p = 0.006).
Conclusion
Based on the number of applicants per place, there was some consistency in the most popular specialties for both UK and international medical graduates, but there were differences in the popularity of psychiatry. With anticipated decreases in the number of new international medical graduates training in the UK, university departments and professional associations may need to review strategies to attract more UK medical graduates into certain specialties, particularly psychiatry and paediatrics.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-9-77
PMCID: PMC2805648  PMID: 20034389
23.  Correlations of knowledge and preference of medical students for a specialty career: a case-study of youth health care 
BMC Public Health  2008;8:14.
Background
Medical students develop interest in a specialty career during medical school based on knowledge and clinical experience of different specialties. How valid this knowledge is and how this knowledge relates to the development of preference for a specialty is not known. We studied their "subjective" knowledge of a specialty (students' reported knowledge) with "objective" knowledge of it (students actual knowledge as compared to reports of specialists) and their preference for this specialty at different stages of education, and used youth health care as a case study.
Methods
Students from all years in two medical schools (N = 2928) were asked to complete a written questionnaire including (a) a statement of their knowledge of youth health care (YHC) ("subjective knowledge"), (b) their preference for a YHC career and (c) a list of 47 characteristics of medical practice with the request to rate their applicability to YHC. A second questionnaire containing the same 47 characteristics were presented to 20 practicing youth health physicians with the request to rate the applicability to their own profession. This profile was compared to the profiles generated by individual student's answers, resulting in what we called "objective knowledge."
Results
Correlation studies showed that "subjective knowledge" was not related to "objective knowledge" of the YHC profession (r = 0.05), but significantly to career preference for this field (r = 0.29, P < 0.01). Preference for a YHC career hardly correlated with objective knowledge about this profession (r = 0.11, P < 0.05). Students with YHC clerkships showed no better "objective knowledge" about the profession than students without such experience.
Conclusion
Career preference aren't always related to prior experiences, or to actual knowledge of the area. This study shows how careful we should be to trust students' opinions and preferences about specialties; they probably need much guidance in career choice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-14
PMCID: PMC2254611  PMID: 18194536
24.  Addressing Assessment in Libyan Medical Education 
Assessment is a powerful driver of student learning: it gives a message to learners about what they should be learning, what the learning organisation believes to be important, and how they should go about learning. Assessment tools allow measurement of student achievement and thereby give teachers insight into their students' learning, and enable teachers to make systematic judgements about progress and achievement. It is vital then that assessment tools drive students to learn the right things as well as measure student learning appropriately. Any attempts to reform curricula and teaching methods must consider the role of assessment in the learning process.
Libyan doctors and medical students have been calling for changes to teaching and assessment methods at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. A team from the Academic Centre for Medical Education at University College, London have been running workshops in conjunction with the Libyan Board of Medical Specialties since 2006 to discuss strategic aims of assessment in medical education in Libya for the 21st century and to deliver an assessment skills course to Libyan educators. This article outlines the course and the outcomes of preliminary discussions between academics from the UK, participants in the assessment courses and representatives from the Libyan Board of Medical Specialties. As a result of these discussions it was agreed by all that Libyan Medical School assessment methods need updating and, despite significant challenges, changes in assessment must be made as soon as possible. There is a real need for support in both addressing these changes and for practical training for assessors in contemporary assessment methods.
doi:10.4176/081020
PMCID: PMC3066704  PMID: 21483506
Education; Medical; Educational measurement; Libya
25.  Human Resource and Funding Constraints for Essential Surgery in District Hospitals in Africa: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Survey 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(3):e1000242.
In the second of two papers investigating surgical provision in eight district hospitals in Saharan African countries, Margaret Kruk and colleagues describe the range of providers of surgical care and anesthesia and estimate the related costs.
Background
There is a growing recognition that the provision of surgical services in low-income countries is inadequate to the need. While constrained health budgets and health worker shortages have been blamed for the low rates of surgery, there has been little empirical data on the providers of surgery and cost of surgical services in Africa. This study described the range of providers of surgical care and anesthesia and estimated the resources dedicated to surgery at district hospitals in three African countries.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional survey of data from eight district hospitals in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. There were no specialist surgeons or anesthetists in any of the hospitals. Most of the health workers were nurses (77.5%), followed by mid-level providers (MLPs) not trained to provide surgical care (7.8%), and MLPs trained to perform surgical procedures (3.8%). There were one to six medical doctors per hospital (4.2% of clinical staff). Most major surgical procedures were performed by doctors (54.6%), however over one-third (35.9%) were done by MLPs. Anesthesia was mainly provided by nurses (39.4%). Most of the hospital expenditure was related to staffing. Of the total operating costs, only 7% to 14% was allocated to surgical care, the majority of which was for obstetric surgery. These costs represent a per capita expenditure on surgery ranging from US$0.05 to US$0.14 between the eight hospitals.
Conclusion
African countries have adopted different policies to ensure the provision of surgical care in their respective district hospitals. Overall, the surgical output per capita was very low, reflecting low staffing ratios and limited expenditures for surgery. We found that most surgical and anesthesia services in the three countries in the study were provided by generalist doctors, MLPs, and nurses. Although more information is needed to estimate unmet need for surgery, increasing the funds allocated to surgery, and, in the absence of trained doctors and surgeons, formalizing the training of MLPs appears to be a pragmatic and cost-effective way to make basic surgical services available in underserved areas.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Infectious diseases remain the major killers in developing countries, but traumatic injuries, complications of childbirth, and other conditions that need surgery are important contributors to the overall burden of disease in these countries. Unfortunately, the provision of surgical services in low- and middle-income countries is often insufficient. There are many fewer operations per a head of population in developing countries than in developed countries, essential operations such as cesarean sections for complicated deliveries are not always available, and elective operations such as male and female sterilization can be difficult to obtain. Lack of funding for surgical procedures and shortages of trained health workers have often been blamed for the low rates of surgery in developing countries. For example, anesthesiologists (doctors who are trained to give anesthetics and other pain-relieving agents) and trained anesthetists (usually nurses and technicians) are rare in many African countries, as are surgeons and obstetricians (doctors who look after women during pregnancy and childbirth). To make matters worse, these specialists often work in tertiary referral hospitals in large cities. In district hospitals, which provide most of the primary health care needs of rural populations, basic surgical care is usually provided by “mid-level health care providers” (MLPs)—individuals with a level of training between that of nurses and physicians.
Why Was This Study Done?
Various organizations are currently working to improve emergency and essential surgical care in developing countries. For example, the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group (BESG) seeks to define, quantify, and address the problem of unmet surgical needs in sub-Saharan Africa. Importantly, however, before any programs can be introduced to improve access to surgical services in developing countries, better baseline data on existing surgical services needs to be collected—most of the available information on these services is anecdotal. In this study, the researchers (most of whom are members of the BESG) investigate the provision of surgical procedures and anesthesia in district hospitals in three sub-Saharan African countries and estimate the costs of surgery performed in the same hospitals.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected recent data on the number of doctors, MLPs, and nurses in two district hospitals in Tanzania and in Mozambique, and from four district hospitals in Uganda and information on each hospital's expenditure. Most of the health workers in these hospitals (which care for 3 million people between them) were nurses (77.5%), followed by MLPs not trained to provide surgical care (7.8%), and MLPs trained to provide surgical care (3.8%). The hospitals had between one and six medical doctors each (28 across all the hospitals), but there were no trained surgeons or anesthesiologists posted at any of the hospitals. About half of the major surgical procedures undertaken at these hospitals were performed by doctors but more than a third were done by MLPs although the exact pattern of personnel involved in surgery varied among the three countries. Anesthesia was mostly provided by nurses and doctors; again the pattern of anesthesia provision varied among countries and hospitals. Only 7%–14% of overall hospital expenditure was allocated to surgical care and most of this allocation was used for obstetric services. Finally, the researchers estimate that, on the basis of district populations, the district hospitals spent between US$0.05 and US$0.14 per head on surgical services.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in the district hospitals investigated in this study, physicians, MLPs, and nurses provide most of the surgical care. Furthermore, although all the hospitals in the study provide some surgical care, it accounts for a small part of the hospitals' overall operating costs. These findings may not be generalizable to other district hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa and provide no information about the unmet needs for surgical care. Nevertheless, these findings and those of a separate paper that investigates the range and volume of surgical procedures undertaken in the same district hospitals provide a valuable baseline for planning the expansion of health care services in Africa. They also suggest that increasing the funds allocated to surgery and formalizing the training of MLPs might be a cost-effective way of increasing access to surgical care in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000242.
The range and volume of surgery in the same hospitals is investigated in a PLoS Medicine Research Article by Moses Galukande et al.
Information on the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group is available
WHO's Global initiative for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care plans to take essential emergency, basic surgery and anesthesia skills to health care staff in low- and middle-income countries around the world; WHO also has a page describing the importance of emergency and essential surgery in primary health care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000242
PMCID: PMC2834706  PMID: 20231869

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