Faculty Spotlight: Michael Wilkes

wilkesHEADSHOTDr. Michael Wilkes, Office of the Dean, School of Medicine, oversees the UC task force on end-of-life care. To improve the training of medical students, residents, and practicing doctors across the country, Wilkes worked with programmers from a number of universities to develop two online platforms: eDoctoring and the case authoring tool called Riverside.


Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the eDoctoring platform combines case studies, tutorials, an action planning tool, and a blog.

Wilkes describes the case studies as “a series of videos that present the patient’s story, which three avatars (a professor and two residents) discuss.” Wilkes showed me an example case that started with a video of a doctor telling a couple that their son did not survive a drowning. Next, the avatars appeared on the screen and each gave his or her opinion on how the doctor could have done better in communicating the bad news. The avatars then asked me what I thought (there was a place to type in my response; if I was doing this for real, those responses would be exported to a PDF and emailed to my faculty supervisor). Based on my answers, the avatars have more to say, and we proceed with the case.

In addition to these case studies, eDoctoring contains tutorials, which are interactive “chapters” on specific topics and involve multiple videos, but do not have the avatar discussions. “A student might get driven to these tutorials by the case, or the faculty member might assign the tutorial,” Wilkes explains.

After completing a case study or a tutorial, students complete an action plan. “One of the things that we are always concerned about is that we can teach people facts and they can answer them on an exam, but at the end of the day medicine is about behavior and actions,” says Wilkes. “To resolve this, we ask students to use eDoctoring’s action planning tool to document the steps they will take to implement what they have learned and change their practice. Student need to outline the steps they will take and what barriers they anticipate facing, and how their professor will know they have been successful.” These action plans get applied when the students work with real patients, so the faculty members can confirm that the tutorials and case studies have actually influenced the student’s approach to medicine.


The other project Wilkes spearheaded is the case authoring tool called Riverside, which is used by a consortium of 35 medical, dental, and veterinary schools around the world. “We set out to create a program that would allow faculty to create visually simulating teaching tools and put them in a repository where other schools could use them,” Wilkes explains. The repository allows Wilkes to create a case study on the Riverside platform that can be used (and adapted) by any of the schools in the consortium.

Taking the concept a step further, Wilkes requires his senior medical students to write a case with a faculty member and put it into the Riverside tool. “This means they are having to teach,” says Wilkes, “and think about who their learners are.”  He stresses the old adage, “that you never know something as well as when you have to teach it!”

I was also impressed to learn that Riverside can be adapted to any discipline – Wilkes already created materials for the art history program. If you are interested in creating interactive online materials for your department, contact Dr. Wilkes.

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