Case-Based Learning (CBL) at UCLA SOD

We are already back in the swing of things here are UCLA. In fact, our first quiz was just last week! This quarter feels like information overload, with foundational courses in topics such as pharmacology, microbiology, and radiology, among others. One of the greatest changes this quarter has been the start of a class called Systems 1. Each Systems course covers a group of organ systems, and we’re starting off by learning about the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and renal systems. When spring quarter comes around (April through June), we will take Systems 2 and 3. And when summer quarter makes its way around (July through September), we will take Systems 4 and 5. Word on the street is that the even-numbered systems are relatively easier. I hope this is the case!

Systems 1 meets 2 hours per day, everyday, and while it is predominantly lecture-based, the class also includes intermittent Case Based Learning (CBL) and simulation labs. Our CBL sessions are interactive, small-group sessions lead by a faculty member. We are first given a case with set information about a patient, such as her background, vitals, and chief complaint. Then, we use this information to conjecture a diagnosis (or multiple diagnoses) and our course of action. I have enjoyed my CBL experience so far because everyone in my assigned group creates a safe space. No one feels judged for asking ‘stupid’ questions, and no one tries to dominate the discussion. I think what makes our CBL sessions especially rewarding is that we also have a knowledgeable faculty present.

In our last CBL session, Dr. Eric Sung was our faculty member. Dr. Sung works in hospital dentistry and often treats medically complex patient cases and special needs patients who come to UCLA for dental care. Dr. Sung is also a member of the heart transplant team at UCLA. He helps to ensure that oral infections do not compromise transplant procedures, since transplant recipients are often medically complex and immunocompromised. In light of our cardiovascular CBL case, Dr. Sung was able to offer his experiences as a health professional to augment our CBL learning experience.

On the whole, our class seems interested in Systems material. I enjoy Systems because I find it fascinating to learn about how the oral cavity integrates into the rest of the body. Similar manifestations of disease, growth, and recovery are shared by so many different tissues! Given the siloing of healthcare education and provision, I think it is particularly important for us, as dental students, to learn that most (if not all) pathological conditions found in the mouth and on the face are related to problems elsewhere in the body. A handful of dental schools around the country (Columbia, Harvard, UConn, etc.) offer a combined medical-dental curriculum for this very reason. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of our Systems professors are from the medical school or hold dual appointments in both the medical and dental schools at UCLA.

Tomorrow, we will step into the Human Patient Simulator (HPS) lab. It will be yet another learning experience, and I’m looking forward to it!

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