For healthcare professionals only


Daniel Federman

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 17 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4744
  1. Joanna Lyall
  1. London
  1. joannalyall50{at}

Endocrinologist, teacher, and pioneer of problem based learning

Credit: Harvard Medical School

Daniel Federman, who has died aged 89, spent 60 years at Harvard, starting as a student and going on to become dean of the medical school. It was here that he introduced problem based learning in 1985. Rather than the standard US medical school regime of up to 33 lectures a week, classes were broken up into groups of eight students with one tutor, and encouraged to discuss and work through problems, researching information on their own initiative.

“The overall goal was to produce lifelong learners,” Federman recalled in an interview with the Endocrine Society in 2010.1 “Science was changing so fast that if graduates didn’t learn to learn, they weren’t ready to be in medicine.”

Credit: Harvard Medical School

Harvard’s new pathway curriculum, based on experience at McMaster medical school in Hamilton, Ontario, was one of the first US programmes to teach through case examples. “The diminution of lectures and the elevation of small group teaching and the responsibility on students …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription