Dr. House as training material

Dessau, 14.01.2019

Guest commentary by Thomas Steinberg.

The physician is shocked: standing in the door of the hospital room, she sees her colleague Dr. House drinking spirits with the patient. This patient had a serious physical breakdown and was transferred to Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital from death row.
Everybody acquainted with the character of Gregory House can guess that the doctor does not drink with Clarence because he finds the man’s fate touching but because it makes sense for some medical reason or other. But which exactly?

Prof. Christian Mang poses the question. To MHB students in Dessau, Bad Saarow, Lauchhammer, Potsdam, Neuruppin. The pharmacologist who teaches in Münster after many years in Mainz is sitting in a room on the premises of the Dessau Municipal Hospital together with students, the others are connected via video.

Patrick Timm, MHB student of the first generation, has invited Mang to Dessau where he assists him with the video conference. He got to know Mang on YouTube from online lectures and met him in person at a congress in Mainz.


Pharmacologist Prof. Mang (1st from left) followed medical student Patrick Timm’s (1st from right) invitation (photo: Thomas Steinberg)

Mang cannot compete with famous-for-nothing YouTubers and their millions of followers; but his MANG Medi-a-zin-Didaktik is high up on the list of German YouTube professors with a total of 15410 followers and 15 videos. His videos are between 60 and 90 minutes in length and address medical-pharmaceutical topics. His motto: Good teachers know how to render complex facts in a simple manner.

The discussion of symptoms and interventions as presented in “Dr. House” may sometimes contribute to this purpose. As in this case: when does booze count as medicine? A student in Bad Saarow is the first and holds up a sign saying “methanol poisoning”. “Well done”, says Mang and explains the biochemical background.

When Dr. Gregory House impersonated by Hugh Laurie withdrew from the series after 177 episodes, the misanthropist and his team had diagnosed all kinds of rare disorders, such as colchicine poisoning, Lambert-Eaton-Rooke syndrome, Myasthenia gravis or bubonic plague. The series is considered to present a well-researched medical background and certainly provides entertaining instruction material.

Mang starts his video lecture with the explicit statement that he does not approve of rote learning or memorization. Critics still believe rote learning to be a key element of medical studies. Instead, Mang aims to stimulate a better understanding of correlations – and of patients.

Despite the booze therapy, patient and death row candidate Clarence feels terrible, he suffers from horrible abdominal pains. More and more additional symptoms appear, until Mang stops the film and asks for a diagnosis. A student in Dessau has the correct answer: phaeochromocytoma, a benign adrenal gland tumour. An extremely rare disorder which – among other things – causes excessive adrenaline rushes. For the TV doctors this explains the patient’s massive fits of rage in which he has committed four murders.

What else can you learn from “Dr. House”? Always take a second look, says Prof. Christian Mang. No premature judgement. Not on people, not on diseases.

The video conference permits inclusion of students at other locations in the seminar (photo: Thomas Steinberg)