Second year medical students at UTHSC take a Medical Pharmacology course where they are expected to learn the names and uses of drugs. At present, the course includes approximately 600 drugs. Course lectures and support materials present the drugs in categories according to usage and include the generic name, brand names, as well as correct spelling. In addition to learning the names and uses of drugs, it is important students learn correct American English pronunciation, in order to communicate with other medical professionals they meet in a clinical setting. Students currently learn to pronounce the names of the drugs through hearing them spoken by the professors and through replaying lectures on tape. Students learn by imitating what they hear. There is no other formal pronunciation tutor or performance support system in place to support this learning need. The course director reports that the current methods are not always adequate, as students provide anecdotal evidence of clinical incidents where they refer to a drug by name and are not understood by medical staff. One reported source of the problem is a pronunciation difference between American and British English: some lecturers speak American English, and others British English. Students thus need to learn to pronounce the drug names correctly in American English.
The project will address this need by developing a pronunciation performance system. The system will be an interactive web-based product using a database engine available in the public domain. Use of the product will require Internet access, an Internet browser with appropriate plug-ins (including audio players), and earphones. The system’s user interface will provide a visually intuitive menu system by which the learner can select the generic name of the practice item, view a phonetic spelling of the word, and view the drug’s category and brand names. (Note: the phonetic spelling will not use the International Phonetic Alphabet.) The system will present a method for playing/replaying the model pronunciation of the generic name. The initial system will provide between 30 and 50 working audio practice items. The backend will be designed so the owner can maintain the database. A job aid for maintaining and updating the pronunciation support system will be included. The product will include a supplemental list of resources where additional audio pronunciation guides can be found on the web. The host system has yet to be identified.