Illness in context and families as teachers: A year-long project for medical students

Anat Gaver*, Jeffrey M. Borkan, Michael A. Weingarten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The authors describe a program for second-year students in Tel Aviv University's six-year medical school. The program's aim is to teach students the importance of context and interactions in patient care by exposing them to a real patient-family-doctor interaction using narrative-based methods to encourage reflective learning. Each student meets five times a year with a volunteer family, one of whose members suffers from a chronic disease. The program endorses a "patients as teachers" approach, as families are considered to be teachers for the students and not as objects of investigation and assessment. The students receive supervision in small groups, to enhance learning and reflection. To appraise the extent to which students had obtained the required knowledge, skills, and attitudes, the authors extracted reflections regarding the learning experience from students' essays. Major themes identified were becoming "family sensitive," building and improving communication skills, questioning intrusiveness, adopting a nonpatronizing and nonjudgmental attitude, developing reflective skills, creating a future professional model, and experiencing and appreciating continuity of care. The authors argue that learning to listen to patients' narratives, developing a reflective attitude, and being sensitive to patient-family-doctor interactions are of value to all doctors, and therefore programs similar to theirs should be established as part of general medical school education and not just in the context of family medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-451
Number of pages4
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005


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