Teaching Generation Y

Anthony Yachnis, M.D., a professor at the UF College of Medicine’s Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine, lectures about teaching Generation "Y" medical students. His Feb. 20th lecture kicked off UF COM Medical Education Week. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

Today’s medical students may prefer texting instead of face-to-face conversations and interactive group learning compared to traditional lectures.

But they still share the timeless qualities of past generations of physicians, such as compassion and a strong dedication to medicine, said Anthony Yachnis, M.D., a professor at the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine.

“And they have the intellectual curiosity that will make for just a superb next generation of physicians,” he said.

Yachnis’ lecture, “How Will ‘Generation Y’ Learn Medicine,” was the first presentation in the UF College of Medicine’s Medical Education Week Seminar Series. The event runs from Feb. 20-25 and includes the Feb. 22 Medical Education Banquet.

Medical Education Week, which was initiated in spring 2000, features guest speakers who address various aspects of medical education for faculty, students and residents. It is sponsored by the Society of Teaching Scholars to recognize and nurture the college’s education programs.

Yachnis discussed generational differences which influence what is taught in medical school and how it is taught, honing in on the current generation, Generation Y.

Generation Y includes people born from 1982 to 2005, who grew up in times of fast-changing technology and uncertain times. From an education standpoint, they prefer working in groups, hands-on experiences, learning by trial and error and thinking outside the box, said Yachnis.

“I would suggest that these are all the ways we learn medicine,” he said.

Even social media, like Facebook, can also be useful in the classroom.

For example, Yachnis said he’s seen how Facebook fulfills the need for rapid communication for his son’s high school drum line. No matter where each drum line member lives in Alachua County, they can all instantly get information about meetings and events.

A neuropathologist, Yachnis also tries to find creative ways to help his students remember pathology, like injecting music into his lectures.

“Believe me — they listen,” he said.

Modern medical students still need to learn the basics and want plenty of feedback and mentoring from faculty, they just may go about things differently, Yachnis said. For example, after a lecture, he usually has no students raise their hands with questions afterwards. Then later that day, he gets a flurry of students’ questions via email.

“They really do want direction from us,” Yachnis said.