Betsy Blyler, Artist-in-Residence at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, works on a mural in the fourth floor central rotunda with hospital visitor Colin Volgemuth. Blyler and Volgemuth are pictured at left, looking leftward at the mural, each holding a paintbrush.

Department of Humanities

Patients as Teachers Project

Understanding the global effect of an illness is an important concept to teach future physicians.

The Patients as Teachers project at Penn State College of Medicine is a nine-month program that provides beginning medical students with the opportunity to learn about health and illness from the patient perspective.

By understanding how individuals view their interactions with doctors, students can recognize and develop positive professional communication skills.

Be a Patient-Teacher

Patients of all ages are invited to participate in the Patients as Teachers project, helping medical students learn about the experience of illness.

The program is now recruiting new patient-teachers to join the program.

Here's what those who participate can expect:

  • Each patient-teacher is matched with a pair of first-year medical students who will visit with their patient-teacher a minimum of four times during the nine-month program. Meetings may take place at the patient-teacher's home or doctor’s office at a mutually convenient time.
  • The students will talk with the patient-teacher about their experience as a patient outside the hospital or physician’s office.
  • Students may access the patient-teacher's electronic medical record, but they are not permitted to give medical advice or care.
  • Participation is completely voluntary. Any potential patient-teacher may decline to participate after receiving more information on the program, or may discontinue visits at any time.
  • A doctor’s referral is not needed to participate.
Register as a potential patient

Honoring the Patient-Teachers

A young woman is seen talking happily with a woman in a wheelchair sitting at a table with her.
Penn State College of Medicine medical student Daniela Medina, right, talks with her patient-teacher, Kristine Miller, during the Patients as Teachers Recognition Dinner in May 2019. The College holds the annual dinner to celebrate those patients willing to be part of the students' education.
A young man and young woman are seen kneeling on either side of a woman in a wheelchair.
Medical students Paul Nguyen, left, and Neekita Jikaria, right, pose with their patient-teacher, Emily Shifflet, at the 2019 Patients as Teachers Recognition Dinner.
An older woman is seen looking at a scrapbook, smiling, with a younger woman on either side of her.
Penn State College of Medicine medical students Lois Kwon, left, and Molly Martley, right, made a photo album for their patient-teacher, Elizabeth Kaplan, which they presented to Kaplan at the Patients as Teachers Recognition Dinner in May 2019.
A young woman and older man are seen smiling at the camera, with their arms around each other's shoulders.
Penn State College of Medicine medical student Abigail Styck poses with her patient-teacher, Jim Erdman, at the 2019 Patients as Teachers Recognition Dinner.

Contact the Project

For details on Patients as Teachers, contact Tamika Washington, Project Coordinator/Office Manager, Office of Medical Education, at 717-531-0003, ext. 289262 or