McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Professor receives international prize for research in medical education

By Laura Thompson
Published: September 16, 2008
Geoff Norman
Geoff Norman, assistant dean of the Program for Educational Research and Development

An international prize to recognize high-impact research in medical education is being awarded to a McMaster professor who has been looking for better ways to train doctors for almost 40 years.

Geoff Norman, assistant dean of the Program for Educational Research and Development, has been recognized with the 2008 Karolinska Institutet Prize for Research in Medical Education. He will receive the award along with a prize of about $76,000 (50,000 euros) at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on Oct. 28, 2008.

The prize, which is not given every year, is meant to recognize and stimulate high-quality research in medical education and to promote long-term improvements of educational practices in medical training. Norman is the third recipient of the award.

"It's an astonishing recognition," said Norman. "The prize and Karolinska Institutet are so well known in my field of work; it's a feather in the cap for both me personally and for McMaster University."

Since receiving a PhD in physics at McMaster in 1971, Norman — who in his own words "stumbled into the field of medical education" — has made many contributions to medical education in areas such as measuring knowledge, clinical skills and development of curriculum for health and nursing education programs worldwide.

Norman holds the Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Dimensions of Clinical Expertise and he is a professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics for the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Norman's primary research is in expert diagnostic reasoning — how clinicians arrive at a diagnosis. His research into how medical students learn has contributed to the theoretical foundation of problem-based learning, and he has specifically looked at many other areas including anatomy learning from computers, use of simulations in clinical learning and the role of basic science in medical education.

Norman has also played a central role in developing the concept-based curriculum at McMaster, an evolution of McMaster's emphasis on problem-based learning (PBL), which has been adopted by over 100 medical schools worldwide.

"Professor Norman is awarded the prize for his highly original and innovative research within the field of medical education," said Professor Peter Aspelin, chair of the Karolinska Institutet Prize committee. "His research has had a significant impact on our understanding of the practice of medicine, as well as our knowledge of complex issues such as pattern recognition, clinical reasoning and clinical problem solving."

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