Teaching on the Frontiers of Healthcare. 

For those involved in teaching in the healthcare field—the focus of the Special 
Section in this issue of Academic Exchange Quarterly (AEQ)---there are two 
frontiers in which we simultaneously pioneer.  One frontier is the subject matter 
that we teach as new discoveries are made in the basic health sciences, 
in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation, and as the health and 
medical care delivery systems evolve. Research flowing from mapping of the human 
genome, integration of alternative and complementary health practices into 
western scientific medicine, newly emerging diseases such as West Nile virus, 
an aging population, exposure to anthrax are examples of events that are shaping 
the current frontier. As teachers we continuously face the challenge of keeping 
up to date in the subject matter of our field to ensure that what we practice 
and teach is accurate. 

The other frontier, in which we are constantly operating, is the rapidly changing 
technology with which we do our work as teachers and as health professionals. 
We use technology both to teach subject matter to students and colleagues, and 
to deliver health services. The expansion of the Internet and World Wide Web 
(WWW) is an example of the changes in the ways to exchange health information. 
Population databases can be built and shared around the world for disease 
monitoring and for rapidly communicating health alerts. The technology used in 
telemedicine allows for transmission of medical images, diagnosis and consultation 
in emergencies at remote sites, home care, shared access to patient records, 
psychological counseling, and for teaching. Health science students work in 
virtual laboratories without experimenting on live or deceased organisms. Online 
courses offered via the WWW for health professions’ training and for continuing 
education are proliferating. Increasingly the technology is becoming the subject 
matter. As teachers we have to not only teach our students using a variety of 
rapidly changing technologies, but we have to teach our students how to use 
technology in their professions.

Both frontiers present research challenges to those who teach. We must continue 
basic and applied research on the biomedical, psychosocial, economic and ethical 
aspects of discoveries, including technological developments and their application 
to the health professions. We must also be bold in developing new ways to use 
technological developments in our teaching. But perhaps highest among the challenges 
facing teachers of health professionals is in knowing which educational strategies 
are effective. We need to place a high priority on evaluative research to test the 
effectiveness of technologies as we apply them in teaching, including conducting 
comparative studies, and assessing cost-effectiveness.  

The articles in the Health Section of this issue of AEQ illustrate how some health 
scientists are taking on the challenges on the frontiers of health care. The 
articles describe the application of technology in the delivery of health services, 
and the efforts to evaluate technologies used in teaching in the health professions. 
We hope that readers are stimulated to further the work illustrated in these 
articles by adopting and testing the developments in online education and 
telemedicine to further advance teaching in the health professions.

Subject Editor: William H. Wiist, Ph.D.
Director of PhD Program in Health Services
Walden University, MN