The 91 students entering Stanford University’s medical school this fall will receive free iPads instead of reams of coursework, a move that administrators hope will improve the learning experience and also cut the school’s paper use.
“Students in the classroom and the clinic will be able to search for information in real time and use it to solve problems they encounter,” said Dr. Charles Prober, the senior associate dean for medical education.
Stanford received a 10 percent educational discount on the Wi-Fi-capable iPads, putting the total cost around $40,000. Prober said that’s only slightly more than what the medical school used to pay to print paper course materials, which now will only be available online.
“I think the iPad will also be useful for these future doctors to explain to patients what medical conditions or surgeries look like,” Prober said. “They can pull out the iPad in the exam room and enhance their explanations with diagrams or pictures. And they’ll always be able to have their medical school notes with them, even after they graduate. It’s impossible to do that with a textbook.”
Students will receive their devices at their Aug. 19 orientation and will receive training on using them the next day. Medical school faculty members are also receiving training so they can use the device in their courses.
The Stanford School of Medicine joins a handful of universities that plan to give students iPads in this academic year. UC Irvine also plans to give the devices to incoming medical students.
Seton Hill University – a small, private Catholic university in Pennsylvania – announced in March that it will give iPads to its 2,100 full-time students. Long Island University and the Illinois Institute of Technology are giving the devices to incoming freshman and transfer students. Oregon’s George Fox University, which has a 20-year tradition of giving computers to its students, will allow this year’s incoming freshmen to choose either a MacBook or an iPad.
Dr. Henry Lowe is the senior associate dean for information resources and technology, as well as a physician and a Stanford professor of pediatrics. He began using an iPad this spring and believes it will become popular with more doctors.
“Physicians are a mobile group,” Lowe said. “They’re moving from clinic to clinic, from patient to patient.”
Stesha Doku, a second-year med student at Stanford, recently bought an iPad.
“Pretty much this is the perfect tool for what I need to do,” she said. “I use it for reviewing slides from last year and for saving everything in one place. I probably won’t use my laptop in class anymore.”
The School of Medicine is not the first Stanford department to embrace the device. Professors in the computer science department began teaching students to develop iPad applications last winter, before the devices had made it to store shelves. Now, the department has added iPad programming to its course offerings.