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Patients as Teachers, Medical Students as Filmmakers: The Video Slam, A Pilot Study

Shapiro, Dan PhD; Tomasa, Lynne PhD; Koff, Nancy Alexander PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181b18896
Medical Education and Technology

In 2006–2007 and 2007–2008, the authors pilot-tested a filmmaking project, (medical students filmed patients) to assess the project’s potential to teach about the challenges of living with serious chronic illness. Two years of second-year medical students (N = 32) from The University of Arizona, working in groups of two or three, were paired with patients and filmed multiple home visits during eight months. Students edited their films to 7 to 10 minutes and added transitions, titles, and music. A mixed audience of students and faculty viewed the resulting 12 films in a “Video Slam.” Faculty also used the films in the formal curriculum to illustrate teaching points related to chronic illness. Student filmmakers, on average, made 4.4 visits, collected 5.6 hours of film, and edited for 26.6 hours. Students reported that the project affected what they planned to cover in clinic visits, increased their plans to involve patients in care, enhanced their appreciation for patient-centered care, improved their knowledge of community resources, improved their understanding of allied health professionals’ roles, and taught them about patients’ innovative adaptations. Overall, students rated the project highly for its impact on their education (mean = 4.52 of 5). Student and faculty viewers of the films (N = 74) found the films compelling (mean = 4.95 of 5) and informative (mean = 4.93 of 5). The authors encountered the ethical dilemmas of deciding who controls the patients’ recorded stories and navigating between patient anonymity/confidentiality and allowing patients to use their stories to teach.

Dr. Shapiro is chair, Humanities Department, and Arnold P. Gold Professor of Medical Humanism, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Tomasa is assistant professor, Family and Community Medicine, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, Arizona.

Dr. Koff is senior associate dean, Medical Student Education, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, Arizona.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Shapiro, Penn State College of Medicine, H134, 500 University Drive, PO Box 850, Hershey PA 17033-0850; telephone: (717) 531-8779; fax: (717): 531-3894; e-mail: (

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges