• Vol. 38 No. 8, 724–726
  • 15 August 2009

The Challenges of “Continuing Medical Education” in a Pandemic Era



Closure of medical schools or the barring of “live patient” contact during an epidemic or pandemic is potentially disruptive to medical education. During the SARS epidemic, the use of web-based learning, role play, video vignettes and both live and mannequin-based simulated patients minimised disruptions to medical education. This article examines the pedagogical innovations that allow clinical teaching to continue without medical students examining actual patients, and proposes a contingency plan in the event of future outbreaks that may necessitate similar containment measures.

Although pandemics of influenza have occurred (albeit rarely, i.e. once every few decades) for more than 3 centuries, recent outbreaks of H1N1 and H5N1 influenza1 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS),2 have necessitated the institution of such measures as school closure and mandatory quarantine of cases1 in a bid to contain the spread of infection. SARS was unique for occurring primarily in hospitals, mainly amongst healthcare workers,3 although it also affected the general populace. Pandemic influenza, however, is mainly community-based. The SARS outbreak mandated the closure of medical schools and barring of medical students from patient contact.4,5 Even though work proceeded apace in hospitals during the outbreak, the medical education of junior doctors was severely curtailed or limited in affected countries.6

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