Medical education is moving away from a reliance on textbooks towards more dynamic and innovative forms of learning. This shift is not only reflective of advancements in technology but also a response to the evolving needs of students and the demands of modern healthcare. This essay explores the evolution of undergraduate medical education in the UK with personal examples.

A significant milestone in the evolution of UK medical education was the introduction of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) in 1995 [1]. Pioneered by Barrows and Tamblyn in Canada in the 1960s [2], PBL aimed to address students' dissatisfaction with conventional medical education, primarily due to the perceived lack of relevance between extensive preclinical material and its application in clinical settings. PBL bridged this gap by enabling students to connect biomedical content with patient cases, fostering a better understanding of their future roles as doctors. Additionally, it promoted professional attitudes and effective teamwork. The General Medical Council's support led to the widespread adoption of PBL in UK medical schools, and it has enhanced essential skills such as social interaction, problem-solving, and self-directed learning compared to traditional lecture-based methods [3]. 

In addition to PBL, many medical schools have embraced a 'spiral' curriculum, including research opportunities and electives. This curriculum progressively revisits fundamental concepts throughout a student's training, recognising the benefits of repeated exposure to deepen understanding [4,5]. It encourages self-directed learning and active recall, both of which have been bolstered by technology use, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personally, I have incorporated AI-driven question banks into my study routine, a method currently favoured by undergraduate medical students [6]. These question banks employ machine learning algorithms to analyse my performance, identify areas of weakness, and deliver targeted practice questions. This adaptive active recall process has not only improved my retention of medical knowledge but has also continuously engaged me in problem-solving, critical thinking, and clinical decision-making. With their advantages in exam technique practice, time efficiency, and multi-platform availability, these question banks are likely to remain popular. Evaluation and ensuring equitable access to these question banks for all students is essential.

Furthermore, I have harnessed language learning models like ChatGPT to create patient cases for peer-to-peer OSCE practice and to simplify complex medical concepts for note-taking and patient communication. Medical simulators have also been instrumental in providing realistic clinical scenarios for hands-on practice in a safe and controlled environment, along with valuable feedback. I have also explored Augmented Reality platforms like Proximie, which live-stream surgical procedures to a global audience who can virtually ‘scrub in’, use overlays for annotations and engage in Q&A sessions. In the near future, I hope this technology will be available for medical students to supplement their surgical placements.

The evolution of medical education in the UK reflects a global trend towards more innovative and technology-driven learning approaches. With 90% of NHS jobs predicted to require digital proficiency in the next two decades [7], this transition is essential for preparing future healthcare professionals to navigate the complexities of modern medicine.


[1] Bligh J. Problem based, small group learning. BMJ : British Medical Journal 1995;311:342.

[2] Barrows HS. Problem-based learning in medicine and beyond: A brief overview. New Directions for Teaching and Learning 1996;1996:3–12. 

[3] Trullàs JC, Blay C, Sarri E, Pujol R. Effectiveness of problem-based learning methodology in undergraduate medical education: a scoping review. BMC Medical Education 2022 22:1 2022;22:1–12. 

[4] Harden RM, Stamper N. What is a spiral curriculum? Med Teach 1999;21:141–3. 

[5] Davis MH, Harden RM. Planning and implementing an undergraduate medical curriculum: the lessons learned. Med Teach 2003;25:596–608. 

[6] Wynter L, Burgess A, Kalman E, Heron JE, Bleasel J. Medical students: what educational resources are they using? BMC Med Educ 2019;19.

[7] Topol E. Topol Review. Preparing the Healthcare Workforce to Deliver the Digital Future 2019:1–8.

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