portrait of Michael Friedlander

By Jim Stroup/Virginia Tech


Michael Friedlander to offer neuroscientific lessons to enhance health education

Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, will present a talk at the inaugural faculty development institute of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), to be held in Herndon, Virginia, from May 21 to May 23.

Six national health profession associations joined together in February of this year to create IPEC in response to the need for a national coordinating body focused on fostering collaborative, patient-centered care. Those organizations are the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the American Dental Education Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Association of Schools of Public Health. The leaders of those organizations will also be presenting at IPEC 2012 Institute.

IPEC 2012 Institute will provide small, institution-based teams with the tools they will need to create a plan for implementing interprofessional education at their institutions. In his talk, “Cognitive Science Underpinnings and Principles of Curriculum Design: Implications for Achieving the Core Competencies,” Friedlander will present his findings about how the principles derived from contemporary understanding of the biological basis of how brains most effectively learn can inform strategies for health education, including interprofessional education.

Based on a review of decades of research, Friedlander and colleagues concluded in an April 2011 article in Academic Medicine that 10 key aspects of learning should be incorporated into a medical curriculum to make it effective. These aspects include appropriate reward and reinforcement, repetition with appropriate spacing, visualization and imagery, active engagement, a judicious application of stress, the opportunity to encode and consolidate memories through rest, multitasking only when the tasks are integrated, a recognition of individual learning styles, learning through doing, and the use of multimedia for revisiting information and concepts.

“Repetition, reward, and visualization are all tried and true teaching strategies,” Friedlander says. “Our understanding and use of principles of how brains learn best can enhance how the health professions are taught.”

Before joining Virginia Tech in 2010, Friedlander served for six years as the Wilhelmina Robertson Professor of Neuroscience, chair of the Department of Neuroscience, and director of neuroscience initiatives at Baylor College of Medicine. For the 25 previous years, he was at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, where he served a range of roles, including as the founding chair of the Department of Neurobiology and the first Evelyn McKnight Foundation Professor of Learning and Memory in Aging. He has received the Menninger Memorial Award of the American College of Physicians for excellence in mental health research, and he serves on the editorial boards of several leading brain research journals.

In addition to his role as the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute’s founding executive director, Friedlander is the senior dean for research at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, a professor of biological sciences at Virginia Tech’s College of Science, and a member of the core faculty at the Virginia Tech–Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. He is now serving his first of two years as president of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine.