University of Pennsylvania to offer free online classes on personalized medicine, genomes

The University of Pennsylvania medical school is participating in an online education venture to provide free university seminars to the public on courses such as personalized medicine, vaccines and genomes.

The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania will initially offer six courses on Coursera’s network that cover healthcare, medicine and biology and total six to eight hours in a series of video podcasts. Cardiac arrest, hypothermia and resuscitation science by Dr. Benjamin Abella will look at innovations in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Other topics include vaccines, healthcare reform, pharmacology, genomes and neurology.

Dr. Gail Morrison, senior vice dean for education and a professor at the Perelman School of Medicine, told MedCity News the university was approached by Coursera three months ago to ascertain interest in participating. Although Stanford University, Princeton University and University of Michigan are also participating, so far Penn has the only medical school providing seminars, which will begin in June.

“We are trying to pick key areas with global consequence,” said Morrison. “We want to educate the world on breakthroughs that are happening here.”


The framework for the medical school seminars is modeled on Perelman’s Frontiers in Medical Science program launched in 1997 for fourth-year students. The one to two week courses focus on translational medicine. The program was developed to raise awareness of advances in basic science in relation to how these advances are applied in a clinical setting.

Morrison said about 40 to 50 professors have expressed interest in participating in the seminars, which will include quizzes and interactive slides.

“Can you imagine anything better than to be able to teach beyond a university to people who would never have the access to come to your program? So from a teacher’s point of view, it’s awesome — you write books, textbooks, articles, publish in journals, but the numbers of people that you could reach on the Internet instantaneously is almost unimaginable,” Morrison said.

Coursera, founded by Stanford computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng last year, raised $16 million in venture capital funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates, according to a company statement. It has offered two courses to date but has had participation from 200,000.

“Higher education is ripe for innovation: it is too expensive and limited to a few,” said Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr.

Dr. Emma Meagher on Fundamentals of Pharmacology

Dr. Benjamin Abella on Cardiac Arrest, Hypothermia and Resuscitation Science

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