Linking cardiovascular theory to practice in an undergraduate medical curriculum.
Case-based teaching (CBT) tutorials were introduced by the Physiology Department at Adelaide University to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the early years of undergraduate medical education. With the use of a clinical case-based environment, CBT aimed to achieve integration of structure-function relationships and an increase in students capacity to apply a physiological understanding to clinical observations/symptoms and data. With peer-peer interactions in small groups, students could trial history taking and examination skills, interpret common investigations, and relate their findings to an understanding of structure and function. Here, the cardiovascular tutorials highlight the centrality of an understanding of structure and function in the evaluation of a case of syncope. An independent evaluation of the students learning experience demonstrated that CBT tutorials were successful in their aims. The "hands-on" experience was highly rated, with students reporting that the CBT approach gave relevance to structure and function. Whatever the curriculum learning style, underpinning practice with an understanding of theory remains a desirable feature of medical education. Key words: cardiovascular physiology; medical education; case-based teaching; theory-practice gap