OHSU Researcher Receives Award for Unique Teaching Style

06/10/02    Portland, Ore.

Physician-teacher uses the ukulele to teach a complex medical lesson

Eric Walsh, M.D., residency director for Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine's Family Medicine Residency Program is the recipient of a Hero Award presented by the publication Family Practice News. OHSU third-year medical resident Heidi Ferguson, M.D., nominated him for the award, honoring his unique, musical method of teaching her how to read an electrocardiogram (ECG). An ECG is used to record the electrical activity of the heart.

While teaching Ferguson how to read the complex paper graphs generated by the ECG machine, Walsh decided there might be an easier way for his student to learn. Walsh used his previous experience as a professional guitarist to set his lesson to music. He then composed a song for Ferguson, who is from Hawaii, on a ukulele that she brought along to show him.

"Dr. Walsh's teaching style is approachable, memorable and usually humorous -- a recipe for teaching success," said Ferguson.

Walsh's unique lesson resulted in the Hero Award and an article in the current edition of Family Medicine News.

"While I don't expect to see 'The Differential Diagnosis of a Prolonged QT Interval' on the Billboard charts," said Walsh. "I hope the song will help Heidi remember the nuances of reading an ECG. However, there is a down side. Each time she reads an ECG, I fear this tune will play repeatedly in her head."