Medical College of Wisconsin Medical School Medical School

MCWfusion Curriculum Patient-Based Discussions (PBDs)

Medical students discussion

Patient-Based Discussions Overview

Patient-Based Discussions (PBDs) are active, consistent and standardized learning sessions in which small groups of students discuss a patient scenario.

PBDs are learner-driven discussions where faculty facilitators guide learners to achieve educational goals of the case.

In Phase 1 of the MCWfusion Curriculum, these weekly sessions will occur during the 10 Integrated Science blocks. The cases will apply foundational science concepts to authentic clinical scenarios and integrate thread objectives including health equity and systems-based practice.

What I’ve appreciated most about our patient-based discussions is watching our learners demonstrate their strong leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills. They work as a team to discuss their patient’s care and they support one another in applying what they’ve learned in their course to a clinical scenario. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to work with my learners on a more individual basis. Traditional lectures can feel a bit impersonal. But with these small group discussions, I get to know my learners as I guide them through their activity. And they impress me time and time again.

Chelsea Weaver, PhD | Assistant Professor, Physiology & Kern Institute, Medical College of Wisconsin

Patient-Based Discussions Learning Goals & Process

Learning Goals

  • Apply foundational science concepts to discussions of patient assessment and management.
  • Demonstrate effective communication and interpersonal skills within a team.
  • Engage in inquiry-based learning during and following the discussions.

Prior to PBD

  • Pre-work distributed on Monday
  • 30-60 minutes of preparation
  • Pre-work entry quiz

The day of PBD

  • Student-led discussion
  • In-person Wednesday mornings for two hours
  • Time to answer questions


  • Debrief
  • Weekly summative wrap-up
  • Extended inquiry assignment

Patient-Based Discussions Team Roles

Student Teams

Teams consist of approximately 10 learners who select their roles to review the patient case. Roles include:

  1. Moderator
  2. Reader
  3. Searcher
  4. Scribe(s)
  5. Section Leader

There is a social contract in place which helps support an engaging, inclusive and equitable discussion.


One facilitator – a foundational science or clinical faculty – guides each Patient-Based Discussion (PBD). The facilitator role consists of the following:

  • Monitor learning outcomes
  • Help learners make connections between clinical perspectives and the underlying foundational science concepts
  • Promote student inquiry
  • Model a growth mindset
  • Provide feedback to the students at the end of the block