Friday, February 19, 2010

Sexuality Education for ALL Medical Students

A conversation I had recently with my dentist spurred me to consider this topic. She approached me and said, “Hey… you’re an expert on this, so I challenge you to get people thinking about the importance of sex education for physicians. That includes general practitioners, OB/GYN, and yes, even dentists.” I looked at her quizzically as she continued, “You have no idea how difficult it is, as a dentist, to know how to approach people who have been sexually traumatized in their lives. I know that some of the things I do have the ability to trigger them, yet I don’t fully understand what’s happening.” Enter the bright light and music as it dawns on me what she’s really talking about. She’s talking about how to work with a patient who has been traumatized and that her training involved zero sexuality education therefore she had no idea how to approach it. Consider someone who has been forced to have oral sex... the dentist working from above and within the mouth has the potential to be an absolutely terrifying experience. You know, I never even thought of it that way. I have been challenged to look at the situation and the act of going to the dentist, or to any doctor, in an entirely new way.

It is necessary to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes regarding sexuality for them to be an effective practitioner. Some schools stress the knowledge, but cover the rest sparingly, if at all (Solursh et al., 2003). I began to examine online course catalogues for various medical and dental schools to see how much human sexuality education a student could expect in their schooling. I found that many schools provided courses in functional anatomy and physiology, but the courses appear to be just that, structure and function. The dental schools I looked at did not provide sexuality education at all. I could go on for days about the variations found and which schools had what, but that’s not the goal here.
In an effort to address the lack of quality sexuality education for American medical students, the American Medical Student Association recently launched their Sexual Health Scholars Program. It is a small group of dedicated students who enter a six month online course aimed at giving participants increased knowledge and skills toward “encouraging healthy sexualities, managing sexual concerns, and will help students bring these tools to their individual schools” (AMSA, 2010).

It is definitely a step in the right direction, and I encourage all of us to consider ways to make it more mainstream in the education process of physicians of all disciplines.

Solursh, D.L.,Ernst, J.L., Lewis, R.W., Prisant, L.M., Solursh, P.L., Jarvis, R.G., & Salazar, W.H (2003). The human sexuality education of physicians in North American medical schools. International Journal of Impotence Research, 15, S41-S45.

American Medical Student Association,


Friday, February 12, 2010

Online Courses

There is an explosion of online course opportunities. Some universities even offer programs that are solely online. As educators it is important to make the best learning experiences for each participant. Moore (1993) offers three tips/suggestions for successful online education.
1. Learner-content interaction
2. Learner-instructor interaction
3. Learner-learner interaction

This seems pretty simple but how would you integrate that into your own course? Learner-content is pretty straightforward you could assign readings, research, PowerPoint. Learner-instructor could be accomplished through email, Skype or videos. I had an instructor for a class for my masters that would video tape himself giving lectures and send it to the students. I would not recommend this because it does not facilitate interaction. Learner-learner interaction may be a little trickier. There is always email, blogs, message boards, phone calls but you really do (in my opinion) miss out on the face-to-face time with fellow students. Peters (1993) would agree, he believes online lacks the human dimension of group interaction, and alienates learners from teachers.

Just like any class that you would teach there is a lot of planning that is needed to make an online course successful. There are classes that do lend themselves better to online courses than others. Classes that are more research based or text heavy would do well as an online course but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make those courses more interesting and interactive. Just because a course is online doesn’t automatically make it cutting edge and interactive, be creative and try new ideas, like Skype or conference calls or I-chatting to encourage a face-to-face feel without actually being face-to-face.
I have included a few resources that may help you out when planning an online course.

An introduction to teaching online

Instructional strategies for online courses

Best practices

Instructor Workshops

Moore, M. 1993. "Three Types of Interaction." Distance Education: New Perspectives, eds. K. Harry , M. Hohn and D. Keegan. London: Routledge.

Peters, O. 1993. "Understanding Distance Education." Distance Education: New Perspectives, eds. K. Harry , M. Hohn and D. Keegan. London: Routledge.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Children and Sexuality

Children and sexuality

Opportunities for sexuality education span across the lifetime. An important population to consider providing education to is parents of younger children. Advantages of parents providing sex education is that they are able to make the most of teachable moments and teach the family values related to sexuality (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010). However in order for parents to do this, they must be able to recognize young children as sexual beings. Fortunately, great resources are available on the web so parents can have access to quality knowledge even when a sex educator cannot be physically present for the conversation.

Last semester I went to a workshop on talking to children about sex hosted by Planned Parenthood of DE (PPDE). I saw great teaching methods used there and am going to share them along with information that can be useful to parents.

Understanding sexuality in children – Here is a link to sexual milestones in children a way to educate parents. If providing education in person, one could consider having milestones on individual cards and having parents match the milestone to the correct age (like a timeline).

Making the most of teachable moments – While parents may not schedule sex talks with young children, they should be able to answer sex questions if they come up. Here is a resource that offers suggestions for making the most of those teachable moments. If doing this is person, parents could practice by being given a scenario and role playing the response with a partner.

Know your family’s values – parents are in a positive to teach about sexuality from a point that fits within the family’s values, not societal values. This will require the parent(s) to really think about what is important to them and how they wish to convey that message to their offspring. To help parents think through their values two very different cultures and their view on sexuality could be given to help parents figure out how they fall on the spectrum.