Problem Based Learning: A Model for Excellence in Medical Education

James O. Alben 1§, Wayne A. Krueger 1, Ronald Berezniak 1, Sarah A. Tjioe 1, Silvia M. Ferretti 2

Problem Based Learning (PBL) provides a framework for building the foundations for leadership: self-direction, critical thinking, empathy and interpersonal skills. Communication of the expectation of excellence helps to guide highly motivated students toward their goals in medicine. This paper presents an analysis of outcomes which demonstrate the effectiveness and quality of a medical curriculum based on PBL for the basic medical sciences.


We describe a large scale implementation of Problem Based Learning (PBL) to classes of 150 students per year with emphasis on student-directed learning of basic medical sciences and development of interpersonal skills. Essential elements of the program were developed on a smaller scale (35 students per year) at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health from 1990 to 2004. The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM, Erie, PA) adapted the program with 40 students per year, from 1999 to present with continuing success. The Bradenton branch campus of LECOM began classes with 150 students in 2004, in a curriculum based entirely on PBL for the basic medical sciences, and graduated its first class June, 2008. Having graduated our first three classes, we present some results of student performance.


After the challenges of the first class, our students have achieved scores on COMLEX 1 (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensure Examination) significantly higher than the national average, with a 100% pass rate on the initial attempt for the past two years. Graduating students continued their education in a variety of residency programs with emphasis on primary care.


Our experience implementing a successful large scale medical education program based upon a cost-effective PBL approach may serve as a guide to others.

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1Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Bradenton Branch, Bradenton, Florida, USA

2Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Erie, Pennsylvania, USA.
§Corresponding author
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