Trouble Mastering Pharmacology? This Online Resource Offers Help

Colin T. Son


July 07, 2009

It's my first night as an intern in the surgical intensive care unit, and I'm desperately flipping through a pocket drug guide to find a pressor for a patient. I can't speak for all newly minted physicians, but pharmacology is one of the most intimidating disciplines I face as I head out from medical school into the real world of medicine.

Thank goodness for Flavio Guzman, MD, whose blog Pharmamotion offers a collection of online lectures, videos, animations, questions, and pharmacology news intended to serve as a resource for current and future physicians. Dr. Guzman has a strong interest in clinical pharmacology and, as we detailed previously, a strong interest in pharmacology education. Here, Dr. Guzman talks with Medscape about how physicians can keep up with drug advances.

Colin Son: What do you think makes pharmacology such a tough subject to learn?

Flavio Guzman: The problem is that this is a very broad topic that integrates physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and clinical medicine, and most medical schools demand that students learn most of pharmacology in a short period of time. Some students feel tempted to study from big textbooks, feeling that the more information they read, the more they will know. Since the information has to be translated to knowledge, I like to repeat the rule "less is more" for pharmacology.

Pharmamotion hosts Grand Rounds
July 7, 2009

Colin Son: What do you think are some of the hardest things to learn in pharmacology? For me, the sheer amount of memorization required has to be the toughest.

Flavio Guzman: You made a point there; memorization is something most of us don't like to use in excess. I think that mechanisms are easier to remember than particular names, maybe because in general we have some previous knowledge on physiology or biochemistry that helps us build the whole concept. The challenge starts when you are a medical student who has never heard about 90% of the drugs mentioned in a textbook; it's like learning a new language in a couple of weeks or months.

Colin Son: Do you think students nowadays are less inclined to spend their study time on pharmacology because of all of the technologic resources? Does easy access to references make physicians less inclined to memorize things?

Flavio Guzman: I think we can rely on certain tools for specific things like interactions, doses, and other data that would be impossible to memorize. The fact that these data are easily available thanks to technology is a good thing, but there is always the risk that we will fail to understand the pharmacologic basis of drug therapy. This is what doctors should try to learn and master -- the rationale behind the drugs that we prescribe.

Colin Son: How can clinicians stay up to date on changes in pharmacology while they're in practice?

Flavio Guzman: I think clinicians in practice have different needs in pharmacology and therapeutics; they are looking for more practical and evidence-based information than are medical students. I heavily rely on unbiased sources on drug therapy such as The Cochrane Collaboration , BMJ's Evidence-Based Medicine , Therapeutics Education Collaboration, Medscape's Drug Reference, and the blog Prescribing Advice for GPs.

Colin Son: How has your blog evolved since you first started it?

Flavio Guzman: Pharmamotion's unique visitors have grown 5-fold since I initially started; they include a wide array of health professionals. On the basis of some readers' requests, Pharmamotion is now including articles by guest writers. The first will be nurse Barbara Olson from "Florence dot com," whose field of expertise is medication safety. [She is also author of the Medscape blog On Your Meds: Straight Talk About Medication Safety.] I have invited experts in different topics who gladly agreed to participate.

This week, Dr. Guzman and Pharmamotion are hosting Grand Rounds. For those new to Grand Rounds, it is a blog carnival that features submissions from other medical bloggers, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, students, and patients.


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