Pharmacy students’ perceptions of Web 2.0 tools in education

A new journal, Future Learning, launched this year aims to provide “the current best thinking, research, and innovation for the effective utilization of technology for educators in higher education, professional education, workplace learning, continuing education, and life-long learning”. The inaugural special issue was on Social Media and Learning, and I am happy to have been able to help contribute an article to it.  That issue (and hence our article, “Thematic analysis of pharmacy students’ perceptions of Web 2.0 tools and preferences for integration in educational delivery”) can be accessed for free via the journal’s download form here. Alternately, all abstracts from the issue can be read here. The journal arena is a crowded one, but I have high hopes for this effort by editor Dr. Lisa Gulatieri (@LisaGulatieri) and their Board.



Development of a residency interviewing preparatory seminar

As the profession of pharmacy continues to evolve in response to society’s health-related needs, one of the most pressing developments is the demand for more residency training opportunities. The demand currently far outstrips the supply of residency positions, and 2010 saw nearly 1 in 3 applicants fail to secure one through the Match. The onus on us as pharmacy educators is two-fold. Nationally, we need to scale up existing slots and help create new programs. Locally, we need to prepare our students as intensively as possible to help them compete for residencies that will help transform them into agents of change for the profession.

To that end, a couple of my colleagues developed an elective, Residency Interviewing Preparatory Seminar (RIPS), the details of which were recently published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. I was fortunate to be involved in this course aimed at developing our students’ core skills in the process including: improving their interviewing and presentation skills, professionalism, and developing their curriculum vitae (CV) and personal statement. As the course was targeted to P4s (i.e., completing the final, clinical phase of their education) who were at their rotation site all day, the class was held weekly for two hours in the evening and timed to be completed directly before the Midyear Clinical Meeting.

Completion of the RIPS course demonstrably improved the confidence of the enrolled students and 78% of RIPS students that cycle secured a residency. Nationally, the success rate is only around 62%, although these numbers cannot be directly compared. We have continued the course since publication and the most recent iteration saw a further increase in the percentage of RIPS students able to secure a residency position. Plans are to continue an iterative approach to course development.


Using clickers to engage pharmacy students across multiple campuses

Click to access free full-text

When you teach at a University with multiple campuses (in our case, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach in Florida and Ponce in Puerto Rico) even with live, interactive videoconferencing – you have to try and figure out ways to connect with your students at different sites. We’ve tried different methods over the years with varying success, but one that worked well early on was the use of  an audience response system (aka clickers). This is something I talked about previously in the presentation, “The Science Behind Engaging Students in Class“.

Our recent article in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education basically describes our multi-campus implementation and measurement of its impact on student engagement, satisfaction, and opinions about projected use of clickers in other courses. We also touched on related issues, such as clickers’ possible role in helping desensitize communication apprehension in students.


Clauson KA, Alkhateeb FM, Singh-Franco D. Concurrent use of an audience response system at a multi-campus college of pharmacy. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. 76(1):6.

Consumer Health Informatics Elective: Expertsourcing

ExpertsourcingThe Consumer Health Informatics & Web 2.0 in Healthcare elective I coordinate for the college of pharmacy wrapped up in December and the ‘votes’ are in about the course. I felt the course went more smoothly this semester and was thrilled to again be able to expertsource several topics by benefiting from guest lecturers. However, the final decision (as always) rests with the students, whose opinions were solicited in the quest to improve the course.

The final exam is an all essay affair (which is not exactly universally popular) and at the end prompted the students to share their opinions on the most and least useful/interesting lectures of the semester along with other feedback.

Based on the comments they wrote, the topics that generated the most traction among students were mHealth and eProfessionalism. Students conveyed they were most intrigued about the potential of mHealth and felt like the issues within eProfessionalism were most personally relevant in their lives. Contributing guest lectures on these topics were leading social media & pharmacy thinker and University of Kentucky professor Jeff Cain (@DrJeffCain) and pediatric endocrinologist-turned-entrepreneur Jen Dyer (@EndoGoddess), who has created an eponymous app. Dr. Cain’s contribution, in particular, may end up having the most longevity of all topics within the course.


However, the most polarizing topic (and lively discussion) was spurred by the guest lecture “Spread the Love, Nothing Else” by Ramin Bastani (@RaminB) of I first met Ramin at @BJFogg’s excellent Mobile Health @ Stanford. While I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought of the STD-notification idea initially, I certainly believed it would be a great tool to engage students about issues surrounding mHealth, the changing nature of communication via social media, and public health. It was. They were.

A sneak peek of data and a physician perspective on use of social media caught the attention of a group of our students as well. Stanford Medicine X creator and AIM Lab Director Larry Chu (@LarryChu) provided an interesting look via his analysis of 4999 online physician ratings.

The most pharmacy informatics-centric and global perspectives that resonated with students were provided by Jerry Fahrni (@JFahrni) of Talyst and Brent Fox (@Brent_Fox) of Auburn University, respectively. The course (unsurprisingly) is focused on the consumer health subspecialty of informatics, but those students who already are planning a path in pharmacy informatics clearly took to Dr. Fahrni’s lecture.

One of the new topics this semester was #SocialGood where we talked a bit about efforts like Free Rice and Kiva. It was really inspired by The Dragonfly Effect lecture from the 2011 Medicine 2.0 Congress. It was pretty primer-y and could likely benefit from a guest lecturer (suggestions?).

All-in-all, the course had some great moments, I think the students took away some useful tools and ideas, and I definitely learned an enormous amount from them and the guest lecturers!


Knowledge, Skills, and Resources for Pharmacy Informatics Education

The most recent issue of the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education featured a Technology in Pharmacy Education section.  There is some really interesting reading in this section including, “Use of Twitter to Encourage Interaction in a Multi-campus Pharmacy Management Course” by @Brent_Fox.  Brent actually authored several articles including, “Knowledge, Skills, and Resources for Pharmacy Informatics Education“, which he wrote along with the newly installed Chair of the ASHP Informatics Section Allen Flynn, informatics luminary and frontliner Chris Fortier (@FortiPharm), and I.  With this article, we tried to summarize the baseline informatics knowledge that pharmacy students should possess upon graduation, framed within med use processes.  My hope is that it will be of real practical use to educators and others as specific recommendations are provided regarding activities and resources for class and curricular integration, rather than just observations made from 30,000 feet.  Also, as with all articles in AJPE, this one is open access (OA) in that it can be accessed free, full-text by anyone.


Source: Fox BI, Flynn AJ, Fortier CR, Clauson KA. Knowledge, skills, and resources for pharmacy informatics education. Am J Pharm Educ. 2011;75(5):Article 93.

Social Media & the Role of the Patient

Our College of Pharmacy recently held its annual student seminar night. A semester’s worth of P3 student work culminated in over 100 podium and poster presentations. There were a number of outstanding student efforts; however, I am featuring this one is it fits the theme of the blog and the student group made it available on Slideshare. The work represents their preliminary analysis and has some interesting findings. Congrats to them and to all of our students. I look forward to seeing a final version of this and several others at the FSHP Annual Meeting.


ULP Review of Asus Slate EP121 (TabletPC)

Ill try to get a better picture uploaded soon

While I am fully entrenched in the iPhone bandwagon, I have not purchased an iPad (or a TabletPC)…or really anything else other than a standard laptop since I tried a LG Phenom, and a ZX81 (Timex Sinclair 1000) prior to that.  However, I recently took the plunge and picked up an Asus Slate EP121.

It is important to qualify my review by stating my intended purpose for the Asus Slate is as a laptop replacement with tablet functionality, *not* primarily as a tablet.  This unit is to be a work computer.  As such, it has to be powerful enough to run a full Windows 7, the complete Microsoft Office suite, etc.  I anticipate about a 70/30 mix of ‘laptop’/tablet usage in my everday work activities.  This, of course, subject to change during periods of travel like conferences and the like.

Specs as purchased ($1099, free shipping, free Microsoft Signature install)
Windows 7 Home Premium, Intel i5 Dual Core, Intel HD graphics, 12.1″ Gorilla Glass screen, 4GB Dual DDR3 RAM, 64GB SSD,  weight of 2.5 lbs, two (2) USB ports, mini-HDMI output, SD Card reader, 2MP (videoconferencing) camera.

Also came with:
Folio case (doubles as a stand as depicted above)
MS Mobile Bluetooth Keyboard 6000
Wacom Pen/Digitizer w/Eraser
Power supply with extra embedded USB charging port

*It is faster than my current (old) laptop Dell XPS M1530 in every measurable way, so its a clear upgrade for me
*I am already trying ways to incorporate the added Tablet & Stylus functionality into teaching, taking notes in meetings, etc. I really like the seamless integration of MS Office/PDFs/OneNote with the enhancements of the Wacom pen and the sprawling screen size to write comments, notes, etc. in an unobtrusive way (vs trying similar with touch laptop where it is a little less natural and you get the occasional arched eyebrow).  We will also be using tablets in some of our studies for consenting patients, getting baseline data & scores, etc.  and I anticipate fewer issues with data conversion and related issues since both systems are Windows-based.
*I haven’t had any problems with its touch interface so far…then again, my only real long-term comparator is the iPhone4
*Boot time is much faster than anticipated (<30 sec from pressing button to surfing the net) and hibernate mode works really well as it consumes almost no battery and launches in about 3 seconds
*I can’t imagine having any handheld device without a webcam for videoconferencing (e.g., meetings and teaching classes), as well as USB ports, and a video out…fortunately, this is not an issue with the Slate
*Turns out 2.5 lbs is lighter than I thought
*I can’t believe I am excited about a keyboard, but the one that came with it is *really* good; similar sentiment for the folio
*Embedded USB in power cord is nice touch, can plug in and simultaneously charge iPhone with just one plug at airport…minor issue, but appreciated
*The ArtRage software & stylus should allow for creation of some nice infographics

*The battery life is terrible. I mean, I knew it was low based on reviews and that in order to run 7 and to power the gi-normous bright screen that it would take juice, but…I tried a couple of different tests and read about similar online. Streaming Netflix over Wifi only yields about 2.5 hours.  Performing low demand work tasks, I can get about 4 hours out of it.  This is normally ok as I am using it as a work computer on my desk, but for travelling, etc. it would have been nice to have been able to get in two movies.
*64GB is nice and Asus offers free ‘unlimited’ cloud storage with it (and there is always SkyDrive, etc.); plus it has USB and SD, but I have 10GB on my laptop just in licensed stock photos – so no way the Slate will comfortably holding all my files.
*Had to get a Bluetooth mouse to fully replicate workstation
*If you are expecting instant-on, power-up you will be disappointed
*HDMI is nice, but will have to navigate the plentiful VGA machines

It’s early days, but so far I am very happy with the Asus Slate.  I suspect people looking for a serious work machine with 7, Office, etc. plus the benefits of Tablet functionality will be happy with the Slate too.  Others simply looking for an alternative to the iPad to surf, read, and play Angry Birds on probably will not be.

Other People’s Opinions
The Aussie ZDNet/cnet site has a pretty good video review of the Asus Slate.  I think it was overly harsh on some aspects and I have no idea why they encountered any difficulty with connecting the Bluetooth keyboard – but they give a fair appraisal overall and had some glowing words about it, summed up by “this thing’s pretty damn good”.

Click to launch to video review

Elsewhere, one ‘enthusiast’ created the most comprehensive audio/video review I have ever seen for ANY product, luckily it is for the Asus Slate.  He has also been trying to answer questions about it, even prior to release in Canada.  My review will give you an indicator, but his site and Product Tour is a must visit if you are seriously considering purchasing an Asus Slate EP121.  Actually, even if you are not that serious, you should check out the thoroughness of this guy’s review.   Amazing.

Hope this helps. Obviously, I would be very interested to hear if you get an Asus Slate and/or about your experiences with one.


Disclosure: I did not receive any consideration for this review.  I did receive free overnight shipping that was available to anyone who goes to: and gets the code.  However, when I tried to use the Facebook code at the Microsoft store online, it  did not work.  So, then I clicked on the proffered Live Chat to ask about the code.  Chat told me I had to *call* customer service to ask them about it.  So, then I sent a tweet at “Matt at the Windows Social Media Team” about it and never heard back. Lost opportunity. Ironic.

Consumer Health Informatics Course – TYVM Guest Lecturers

Last semester I taught Consumer Health Informatics and Web 2.0 in Healthcare in the College of Pharmacy (COP) after having coordinated several iterations of it in the MS in Biomedical Informatics Program. At the end of the COP course, I asked the students for their opinions about the most useful and least useful lectures of the semester (with an eye towards improving future offerings). Many of the students mentioned topics that were discussed by one of the six excellent guest lecturers. While I sincerely appreciate each guest lecturer’s contribution, I thought it would be even more meaningful to share a student response about each guest lecturer/topic.

I’ll use the format below to do so (lecturers appear in the order they taught during the semester):

Student quote
Guest Lecturer
“Lecture Topic”

The course’s most useful lecture was Dr. Kang’s since it focused on policy and the big picture instead of just one or two tools.
Jeah-Ah Kang, PharmD
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC)
“Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools”

Most useful was Dr. Gualtieri’s because it may be the only one that really looked at things from the patient’s side.
Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM
Tufts University School of Medicine
“Blogging for Health: Communicating the Experience of Illness”

Most useful lecture was Dr. Dyer’s lecture. It was very cool seeing how healthcare was using this new tech and getting positive results. Very. Cool.
Jennifer Dyer, MD, MPH
Ohio State University, College of Medicine

I would like to see more experts like Dr. Fahrni. His lecture was most useful. It provided insight on what this breed of pharmacist does on a daily basis.
Jerry Fahrni, PharmD
Kaweah Delta District Hospital (now Talyst)
“Pharmacy Informatics – One Pharmacist’s Perspective”

The most useful topic was Dr. Mesko’s on virtual worlds because it was most forward looking. I wish we would use it more and create our own avatars.
Bertalan Mesko, MD
University of Debrecen Medical School
“Medicine in Second Life, the virtual world”

The most useful lecture topic would have to be the final lecture from Dr. Fox, it was extremely informative and I enjoyed it a lot. I’d like to see an additional lecture from him.
Brent Fox, PharmD, PhD
University of Auburn, College of Pharmacy
“The Pharmacist’s Role in Health 2.0”


Social media presence for the course contributors can be found here:

Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM (@lisagualtieri)

Jennifer Dyer, MD, MPH (@EndoGoddess)

Jerry Fahrni, PharmD (@JFahrni)

Bertalan Mesko, MD (@Berci)

Brent Fox, PharmD, PhD (@Brent_Fox)



Fun with Fonts feat. Profs Perry & West

One of the best things about working in academia is interacting with a constantly changing set of students.  We have a particularly diverse group at my University in terms of background, country of origin, language, and maturity.  And while it may be cliche, it is true that in teaching them you can learn just as much from them (if you are open to it).  I have dabbled with aspects of instructional design, cognitive load theory, multimedia learning, etc., and other RxInformatics folks like @poikonen have posted about Beautiful Evidence, but I recently had a rotation student focus my attention on a seemingly simple element: font.  Mr. Salvatico opened my eyes a bit in terms of free resources for fonts and their utility.  While we didn’t see eye-to-eye on the frequency of font variation in lectures, I definitely learned from our exchanges.  In the spirt of these exchanges, I present the following Fun with Fonts ‘case study’.  Please be aware these lyrics do carry a parental advisory warning.


P.S. A good way to see if your students are actually listening in class is to introduce this clip by Katy Perry and KENNY West and see how fast it takes one of them to correct you to KANYE West.

Pimp My Poster

Like many colleges of pharmacy, ours added a seminar component years ago. The seminar has since been expanded to include a paper, a poster, and a podium presentation.  The topics range from literature-driven examinations of therapeutic controversies to original research tied to the faculty mentor’s specialty.  This year I was responsible for the recitation on the poster component.  This slide deck is what I used for that lecture.  Two particularly notable resources for me in assembling this lecture included the piece in The Scientist that inspired the name [1] and the site maintained by the Godfather of Scientific Posters: Dr. Colin Purrington [2].  If you want to dig a little deeper, here are my current favorite articles on the topic as well [3-5].  The full-text of all of these journal articles is currently available online for free.

I’ve benefitted from attending a lot of conferences over time and have seen (and continue to see) posters that are masterful creations, along with others that are absolute rubbish.  I posted the ‘Pimp My Poster’ slide deck here in hopes that it may be a resource to others, but am also keen for feedback to improve it for future iterations. 


[1]  Westly E. Pimp my poster. The Scientist 2008;22(10):22.
[2]  Purrington CB. Advice on designing scientific posters. 2009. Accessed February 2, 2011.
[3]  Erren TC, Bourne PE. Ten simple rules for a good poster presentation. PLoS Comput Biol 2007;3(5):e102.
[4]  Hamilton CW. At a glance: a stepwise approach to successful poster presentations. Chest 2008;134(2):457-9.
[5]  Wood GJ, Morrison RS. Writing abstracts and developing posters for national meetings. J Palliat Med 2011 Jan 17 [Epub ahead of print].