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AAMC 2014: Playing Games to Get Into Med School


Video games are usually seen as a distraction rather than a help when students are preparing for the MCAT and other medical school entrance exams. However, Ninja Nomads  is looking to change that with games like “Scrub Ninjas.” The company’s CEO, T. Raven Meyers, explains the concept, and how the idea of gamification is being received at the convention of the Association of American Medical Colleges. 

Announcer: Broadcasting from the Algorithms for Innovation booth at the AAMC in Chicago. The Healthcare Insider is on The Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.

Interviewer: Medical education is definitely changing. The paradigm of just an instructor lecturing to a class is kind of falling by the wayside. And one of the kind of frontiers is gamification or gamifying learning in medical school. We're with T. Raven Meyers. She's the CEO and Creative Strategist at Ninja Nomads. Two games to help medical students.

First of all, what are your two games?

Meyers: My two games are Scrub Wars for the USMLE Step 1 and Scrub Ninjas for the MCAT and NCLEX

Interviewer: And they're games to help students study for those two major exams.

Meyers: Exactly

Interviewer: So let's talk about gamification in medical education. Are you starting to see it being used more and more, or is it still something that people aren't using?

Meyers: I think people are on the verge of creating more gamification apps.

Interviewer: I think it's important to note that I think a lot of people hear games they think of just the traditional video games. But there's educational theory, like you said, learning styles. What are some of those learning styles you try to reinforce in games?

Meyers: Right, Right. What I want, especially in this game with Scrub Ninjas or Scrub Wars there's that kinesthetic feel of actually touching and the movement on the game. So when you're playing on the iPad or the iPhone, you're moving the ninjas around to jump up and get the answers. So there's that cognitive of memory, that response.

But the gamification part really enhances the learning process. And I've designed these apps to really hit on all those adult learning styles, to really reach the student in a different way and creative way that increases memory. Basically, these are quick micro-study apps to reinforce what they're already studying.

Interviewer: How do you see the future of the use of games in education, especially in med schools?

Meyers: I think it's growing

Interviewer: Yeah

Meyers: It seems to be just from my experience here today, most of the universities and professors are asking, "How do we get it into our school?" And it's just a great study companion I think to be on the go. Gamification education is something I wish I had when I was younger, to be honest.

Interviewer: Yeah, sure.

Meyers: I think that's what I'm hearing a lot from these conferences, "I wish I had this when I was taking the USMLE." And so that just confirms that gamification education is now.

Interviewer: Is there a resource if somebody wanted to learn more about gamification that you would recommend? Is there a good book, or . . .

Meyers: There's a website called that has tons of content, infographics about gamification education and e-learning. That's a great one. And also Ian Bogost is a gamer and educator that teaches gamification in education.
Announcer: Sparking conversations to transform academic medicine. For more, stop by our booth at the AAMC or go to, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.

By: Scot Singpiel

Scot Singpiel is a senior producer for University of Utah's Scope Radio