Reflection

Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 203-210

System dynamics in medical education: a tool for life

  • David M. RubinAffiliated withBiomedical Engineering Research Group, School of Electrical & Information Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand Email author 
  • , Christopher L. RichardsAffiliated withBiomedical Engineering Research Group, School of Electrical & Information Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand
  • , Penelope A. C. KeeneAffiliated withDepartment of Haematology & Molecular Medicine, School of Pathology, University of the Witwatersrand
  • , Janice E. PaikerAffiliated withDepartment of Chemical Pathology, School of Pathology, University of the Witwatersrand
  • , A. Rosemary T. GrayAffiliated withSchool of Computational & Applied Mathematics, University of the Witwatersrand
  • , Robyn F. R. HerronAffiliated withBiomedical Engineering Research Group, School of Electrical & Information Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand
  • , Megan J. RussellAffiliated withBiomedical Engineering Research Group, School of Electrical & Information Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand
  • , Brian WigdorowitzAffiliated withSystems & Control Research Group, School of Electrical & Information Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand

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Abstract

A course in system dynamics has been included in the first year of our university’s six-year medical curriculum. System Dynamics is a discipline that facilitates the modelling, simulation and analysis of a wide range of problems in terms of two fundamental concepts viz. rates and levels. Many topics encountered in the medical school curriculum, from biochemistry to sociology, can be understood in this way. The course was introduced following a curriculum review process in which it was concluded that knowledge of systems would serve to enhance problem-solving skills and clinical reasoning. The specific characteristics of system dynamics, the widespread use of digital computers, and the availability of suitable software made it possible to introduce the course at this level. The syllabus comprises a brief review of relevant mathematics followed by system dynamics topics taught in the context of examples, which are primarily but not exclusively medical. It is anticipated that this will introduce new thought processes to medical students, including holistic thinking and improved graphical visualisation skills.

Keywords

Medical school curriculum System dynamics Modelling Simulation