By Wendy Sarubbi | August 11, 2014 10:58 am

Medical students taking neurology shelf exams should be better equipped for these tests thanks to a program started by Dr. Michael Bellew, assistant professor of neurosurgery. On August 8, Dr. Bellew brought together community physicians to help them better understand what students need to learn about neurology to meet national standards.

Physicians from Florida Hospital, Nemours Children’s Hospital and private practices who supervise UCF medical students during clerkship rotations took part in the neurology education seminar. The physicians reviewed neurology shelf exam questions to understand the range and depth of neurology knowledge students need to answer questions correctly.

“Our goal is to help our students be the best they can be,“ said Dr. Bellew who worked with Florida Hospital to facilitate the training. He noted that the National Board of Medical Examiners provides little information on what the students need to know, even though the shelf exam counts for 20 percent of a student’s neurology clerkship grades and graduates cannot practice medicine unless they pass the exams.

The neurology exam is especially challenging for students because they must be able to grasp the basics of the medical specialty that focuses on the nervous system including the brain, nerves and spinal cord after just six weeks in a clinic or hospital, said Dr. Stephen Berman, professor of neurology at the UCF College of Medicine.

More than 10 percent of patients who see their family physicians complain of neurologic symptoms. A headache can be a straightforward problem treated entirely by a primary care physician or something much more serious requiring a lifetime of care by a neurologist or neurosurgeon. Therefore, all physicians regardless of specialty need to be able to manage basic neurological conditions as well as recognize when patients would benefit from additional expertise.

By breaking down the questions, the physicians got a better idea of how to engage students and how to modify their teaching to be more effective.

Medical students spend their third year in clinical rotations, where they train in six core specialties. Because students do clerkships at different hospitals and practices, teaching and cases can vary, even though all students must pass the same shelf exam. Dr. Bellew said the neurology session helped physicians share ideas. “We know better the scope of what to teach and the level to teach, but we also gained perspective on how much is too much for a general practitioner,” he said.

The neurology clerkship team hopes to continue the seminars in future years. All physicians received continuing medical education credits for participating in the training.

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