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August 1992

The 'New' Curriculum: Is It New?

Am J Dis Child. 1992;146(8):906. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1992.02160200028021

I belong to an illustrious group of pediatricians called the Irish and American Paediatric Society. A friend in this society sent me a book1 on Sir Dominic Corrigan, a famous physician in Ireland during the 19th century. Sir Dominic, of course, is known to many of us for his description of the signs of aortic insufficiency, especially the "water hammer" or Corrigan's pulse. I expected to read a biography of interest only to those with the Corrigan surname. To my delightful surprise it was not only an biography but a history of medical practice and education in Ireland at that time. Familiar names jumped out—physicians such as Robert Graves, William Stokes, Robert Adams, and Abraham Colles. What struck my fancy and my attention was that these farsighted medical men were considered iconoclasts of medical education. Can you image that they espoused the new education techniques, developing in Germany, of students actually touching patients? This group of Irish educators firmly believed that the way to learn was to get involved. They insisted on smallgroup discussions, obtaining accurate patient histories and performing physical examinations that were verified by the teacher, and assessment of patients' problems that included a prognosis and plans for treatment. These educators also gave the students free time to do independent learning or research. Another feature of the Dublin system in those days was the insistence of the teacher that patients who died undergo autopsy (which was usually conducted by the attending physician) and "the back of me hand" to those students who failed to attend.

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