When the printing press was introduced in 1439 to Western society, allowing for the development of textbooks1, Mark Twain declared it as “the greatest event in history”2. However, Bill Gates recently remarked that “textbooks are becoming obsolete”. This gargantuan change in the role of the textbook represents a cultural change, a shift from the physical to the digital, and medical education is certainly no exception.

Medical education has evolved rapidly in the past few decades, propelled by the development of the World Wide Web (WWW) in 19893. As the WWW grew, it facilitated the use of more innovative forms of learning, such as online textbooks. Indeed, by 2002, medical students reported that they used digital resources as their primary source of information due to their ease of access4. This shift was most profound when the heavyweight of textbooks, The Oxford Textbook of Medicine, shifted online in 20105. 

In addition, the internet allowed for highly innovative forms of learning, such as the development of question banks in the late 2000s. These rapidly grew in popularity, and now over 90% of students report using question banks6. Another milestone was the development of YouTube in 2005: this started gaining major traction in the early 2010s, and was highly popular due to its appeal with auditory and visual learners. Now, it has become a staple for students, with studies reporting that 98% of medical students use it in their learning7.

The development of AI and virtual reality (VR) simulation has led to novel advancements in medical education, with many studies praising its ability to improve communication skills and critical thinking8-10. I shall thus share my experience of AI and VR, as they have been transformative to my education.

When CHATGPT was launched, I soon began making full use of it. For example, when there was a topic that I wanted to learn, I would ask CHATGPT to teach me about the topic using the 80/20 rule. This provided an excellent overview of the topic, and then I could fill in minutiae using question banks. In addition, I greatly utilised CHATGPT in preparation for exams: I would ask CHATGPT to make flashcards and questions on a certain topic, which I would then regularly review, helping me greatly in exams.

Recently, I began using VR for OSCE preparation. I was very fortunate to have 24-hour access to a VR room, where I would regularly practice many different clinical scenarios, such as paediatric anaphylaxis, using Oxford Medical Simulation. The VR was incredibly realistic, and I would be able to work through an A-E approach, communicate with nurses and seniors, and give correct medications. Importantly, at the end of each scenario, I would be given feedback on what I did well and how to improve. This software was most useful: it meant that I felt much more confident dealing with emergencies and taught the importance of prioritisation.

Whilst textbooks may indeed be dead, we can instead look forward to a much brighter future ahead, driven by technological advancement. 

Word Count: 500


1: Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1998. (pp 58–69)

2: Woreck D, Parwini Z. Six hundred years since the birth of Johannes Gutenberg-inventor of the printing press. International Committee of the Fourth International; 2001. Available from http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/jan2001/gute-j03.shtml. 

3: Jacksi, Karwan & Abass, Shakir. (2019). Development History Of The World Wide Web. International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research. 8. 75-79.

4: Peterson, Michael W. MD; Rowat, Jane MS; Kreiter, Clarence PhD; Mandel, Jess MD. Medical Students’ Use of Information Resources: Is the Digital Age Dawning?. Academic Medicine 79(1):p 89-95, January 2004.

5: A medicine classic goes online and far afield: OUP’s Oxford Textbook of Medicine launched online for the first time. (2010, May 6). Research4life. https://www.research4life.org/news/a-medicine-classic-goes-online-and-far-afield-oups-oxford-textbook-of-medicine-launched-online-for-the-first-time-from-oxford-university-press-may-2010/

6: Wynter, L., Burgess, A., Kalman, E. et al. Medical students: what educational resources are they using?. BMC Med Educ 19, 36 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-019-1462-9

7: Jaffar AA. YouTube: an emerging tool in anatomy education. Anat Sci Educ. 2012;5(3):158–164. doi: 10.1002/ase.1268.

8: Haowen J, Vimalesvaran S, Myint Kyaw B, et alVirtual reality in medical students’ education: a scoping review protocolBMJ Open 2021;11:e046986. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046986

9: Samadbeik M, Yaaghobi D, Bastani P, Abhari S, Rezaee R, Garavand A. The Applications of Virtual Reality Technology in Medical Groups Teaching. J Adv Med Educ Prof. 2018 Jul;6(3):123-129

10: Gan, W., Mok, TN., Chen, J. et al. Researching the application of virtual reality in medical education: one-year follow-up of a randomized trial. BMC Med Educ 23, 3 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-022-03992-6

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