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I love learning

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust
Published online: 20 May 2013

Pay a visit to Google and type in the words “Prof Montage”. What you will find is a quirky, effective learning resource suitable for everyone from first-year medical students to interns, residents and fellows. It’s all the creation of an Australian cardiologist on a mission to make learning practical and fun.

Prof Montage (http://www.profmontage.com.au) is a 20-episode series of funny, informative and downright quirky teaching videos designed to answer the most commonly asked questions on ward rounds.

Originally posted anonymously, Prof Montage is the creation of Professor Jonathan Silberberg, a Newcastle-based cardiologist and epidemiologist with an outside-the-box view on most things and a knack for finding different ways of teaching.

South African-born, Professor Silberberg arrived in Newcastle in the mid 1980s to visit his mother at the perfect time.

“The weather was Australian spring at its best and I was working at Royal Newcastle Hospital on a surfing beach. Perfect”, he said.

There was never a doubt that he would be a doctor, he says.

“Both my parents and my older sister were in medicine, so I didn’t even think about it.

“It was just a vehicle for a good, portable income.”

And portable he certainly became.

After graduating from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1978, Professor Silberberg spent a year in the United Kingdom and another in New Zealand, before earning fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) in 1986.

A stint in Canada followed, during which he completed cardiology training and finished a Master of Epidemiology degree.

He returned to settle in Newcastle, and worked there for 20 years as an interventional cardiologist.

“There’s a strong flavour in all my stuff”, Professor Silberberg said. “My flavour is epidemiology — why we do what we do.”

In 1996, Prof Montage was born when Professor Silberberg was invited to put together an educational program for local medicos, but things progressed when fate tipped him off the medical track.

“I was riding a red Vespa, like Gregory Peck in Roman holiday”, said Professor Silberberg.

“A drunk driver took me out. I ended up with a cervical spinal cord compression. My hands were affected.

“I couldn’t write and computer time was very difficult and I had to stop doing catheterisations”, he said.

“To be honest, I was starting to move out of it anyway. I wasn’t fitting in.

“The accident was like a message from the heavens. I’m blessed. I’m alive, and I’m not in a wheelchair”, he said.

“In 2009, I was on the written exam committee of the RACP and we were watching something called ‘I need a CT’ — which you can find on YouTube — and everyone was laughing.

“And I realised that even when it’s about serious subjects, people want to laugh while they’re learning.”

These days, Professor Silberberg practises about 20 hours a week, but, he says: “I’m writing Prof Montage vignettes in my head.”

The first series of Prof Montage videos covers clinical cardiology, cardiac physiology and clinical epidemiology. Each 3-minute clip explains a specific concept — for example, absolute risk versus relative risk.

The original series was created using Xtranormal.com, a software framework created in Montreal that can generate cartoons just by typing in dialogue.

Professor Silberberg, who writes all the scripts, says series two is in production. “We hope to be using voice actors this time around.”

Prof Montage is fully funded by Professor Silberberg, who doesn’t accept advertising, sponsorship or endorsements for the site.

“It’s a way of thanking my students and teachers over the years”, he said.

While the Prof Montage series is not on YouTube, it can be found on Professor Silberberg’s website (http://www.profmontage.com.au), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/profmontagecr) and Twitter feed (https://twitter.com/ProfMontage).

Every week, Professor Silberberg also posts the ECG of the Week at the Global Medical Education Project (https://gmep.org/).

  • Cate Swannell


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