Project to Engage MCW Residents Early in Pandemic Expands to Worldwide Audience

Project to engage MCW residents early in pandemic expands to worldwide audience

There’s a new club in town, but to be a part of it, you need to flex your brain power on issues related to neuroradiology and head and neck imaging.

Dubbed “The Cortex Club,” the group is made up of an international community of learners and educators who take pride in mastering short quizzes on topics pertaining to neuroradiology, including ailments of the brain, spine and head and neck.

The name was chosen for obvious reasons, according to its founder, Mohit Agarwal, MD, an assistant professor of radiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW).

Mohit Agarwal, MD

Cortex is the part of the brain that’s responsible for most of the action,” says Dr. Agarwal, an internationally known neuroradiologist who was recently invited to visit Recife, Brazil, as a participant in the American Society of Neuroradiology Anne Osborn International Visiting Professor Program.

The prize for earning the top score on The Cortext Club quizzes is the club’s coveted Gray Matter T-Shirt.

“We’ve sent t-shirts to people across the world,” says Dr. Mohit Agarwal, who is personally connected to each member and sends these t-shirts to winners.

The more than 150 winners so far can be found in locales including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Qatar, Oman, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Ethiopia, Australia, Sri Lanka, India and Canada, aside from the many members across several medical institutions in the United States.

Agarwal created the two-question quizzes that spawned The Cortex Club as a project to keep students and residents at MCW engaged during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, he sent them via email to students, but its influence spread quickly.

Participants in The Cortex Club

“After a few quizzes, I realized I could take it a step further and engage residents from other programs,” he says. “It became this cool education activity that everyone wanted to be included in.”

He moved the quiz to Twitter and began to share it online with students at other schools. Many national and international educators also took interest and became involved.

“When you have learners and faculty from across the country and the globe wanting to contribute and be a part of the club, then you know that it is bigger than you think,” Dr. Agarwal says.

Some faculty members at other institutions liked the post and retweeted it, while others shared their own educational material on the topic to accompany the quiz. The shirts also started popping up globally, with educators and students appearing in their Cortex Club shirts on social media to support this educational activity.

Neuroradiology quizzes for a new style of learning

Dr. Agarwal believes that the popularity of The Cortex Club is the result of how the pandemic changed teaching and the progression of other new trends in education. He says today’s learners prefer digitized information in snippets, which also allows them to learn at their own pace.

“Bite-sized,” he calls it. “Lengthy educational material does not resonate well with learners of this age.”

The fact that his quiz was housed on Twitter made it more shareable and allowed individuals to post comments and engage with the material in other unique ways, he adds.

Attendees at the 2023 Cortex Club conferenceDr. Agarwal tabulates the top scores for medical students, residents and fellows separately each quarter, since each has a different level of expertise. The overall winners are announced twice a year.

The club also has spawned impromptu meet-ups, including at the national conference of the Radiological Society of North America. A tweet was sent out asking all Cortex Club members to wear their t-shirts and gather to announce the launch of The Cortex Club website.

Another impromptu gathering occurred at the national meeting of the American Society of Spine Radiology in Charleston, South Carolina, and more recently at the national meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society in Honolulu. Photos of these groups were shared on Twitter.

Cortex Club still growing

Realizing that he had the attention of neuroradiology educators and learners from across the globe, Dr. Agarwal decided to take The Cortex Club a few steps further. In addition to housing the quizzes online on the group’s new website, he launched a series of online lectures featuring top speakers in the field.

Cortex Club online lecture series

Featured presenters have included Ashok Srinivasan, MD, from the University of Michigan; Ram Vaidhyanath, MBBS, from the University Hospitals of Leicester, United Kingdom; Steve Colley, MD, from Birmingham, UK; William T O’Brien, DO, from Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital, Florida; Tabby Kennedy, MD, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health; and Surjith Vattoth, MD, from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

“We already have speakers lined up to March of 2024,” Dr. Agarwal says.

As the club continues to grow in membership and influence, Dr. Agrawal hopes that it also continues to raise the profile of MCW.

“It’s a cool way to showcase our program at MCW to prospective residents,” he says. “It engages those outside MCW to let them know about the program and increase recruitment.”

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Education Innovation  / Neuroscience