Associate Dean Warren Wiechmann, MD MBA, is spearheading Google Glass implementation at UC Irvine School of Medicine.

Warren Wiechmann, MD MBA, current associate dean for instructional technologies, assistant professor, and attending physician at University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) Emergency Medicine, is known for his innovative work in medical education. He recently presented at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, and won the Apple Distinguished Educator award.

Aside from the UC Irvine School of Medicine’s recent announcement of Google Glass in their digital curriculum, Wiechmann is also involved with HealthEdIT, a collaborative content curative project. He is also supporting UC Irvine medical students via the Khan Academy as well as education technology fellowships for residents.

Wiechmann’s work pioneered the inclusion of tablets at UC Irvine, providing all medical students with iPads. As the first medical school in the nation to implement iPads and provide the tablets to their medical students, UC Irvine last year reported that providing the iPad tablets to their medical students, along with their revamped curriculum, boosted their USMLE Step 1 scores by 23%.

We interviewed Wiechmann about his work in innovation with UC Irvine medical education.

What new technologies is UC Irvine creating?

Warren Wiechmann: We’re doing a formal pilot within our medical curriculum with Google Glass in medical education. We found a donor to fund this, and we’re doing a short pilot from May through August on 10 Glass devices throughout all phases of the medical education curriculum. Our goal in August is…to expand it to 30 to 50 more units.

Warren Wiechmann - UC Irvine - Steve Zylius

Who’s going to develop the software?

Warren Wiechmann: We partnered with a company called Pristine based out of Austin, TX. They are a Glassware provider that provides secure HIPAA-compliant video messaging, so they built a whole separate platform of encryption to allow point-to-point video connections from Glass to other units like tablets and phones. It can take the place of an entire telemedicine unit with a single HD camera and connection feed; why have a giant Polycom unit when you can have a $1500 head-mounted unit?

So we’re partnering with them, using their services, and it’s up to us to develop and fine-tune the use-case scenarios. There are only 12 or 13 clinical pilots featured in the news with open-surgical procedures. None of them have used secure HIPAA-compliant deployment except for UC Irvine, which the Department of Anesthesiology has been using for their clinical work. The clinical [utility] for Glass is evident. Brown University is doing this for dermatology and radiology consults and more, so we’re not the first healthcare institution to use it, but we want to be the first medical school to incorporate it into the curriculum.

How can you incorporate this in medical education? Especially when the first two years are basic sciences?

Warren Wiechmann: So the specific use cases for this are in anatomy lab for teaching dissection, in real-time, collaboratively where the dissector will wear glass, can push up the display, and share that larger dissection to the group. We can bring clinical pieces to the classroom and hop into the OR, see a triple A repair, without needing a Polycom or other expensive equipment. We’re trying to create teaching-focused use cases for Glass instead of as [just] another clinical tool.

Warren Wiechmann at the UC Irvine sim center

What other things do you have in the works at UC Irvine?

Warren Wiechmann: We’ll be in our fifth year for the iPad program at UC Irvine, and [every medical student] class [has] these devices. 80 faculty have these devices. Our big push for the next two years is to really focus heavily on student engagement and student and faculty content creation. We’ve curated the best content from the past four years, including web-based or via the iPad, and now we’re at that point in the natural history of our program where we have more people wanting to create their own material.

We’ll put our focus on classroom-style learning, short of podcasts, but more specific interactive resources. We have three students at Khan Academy who were Khan Academy Challenge winners [in the] MCAT and NCLEX challenges. Each one of those has 15 winners. Three out of those 30 winners are UC Irvine medical students. Raja Narayan, another student Ian Mannarino, and an incoming first year [were awarded positions].

We have a brand-new faculty development academy run by a new Dean for Faculty Development. The other big thing is that starting in the fall, through emergency medicine, a fellowship for multimedia design and education will be created. Students will do two years there and get a Masters in Multimedia Design for residents and students. Our first fellow is Shannon Toohey. We want to maximize what we can do with our technology.

We still have our Health 2.0 and Fiscal Literacy course, and brought on another 30 students through that curriculum. My goal is to get that into a MOOC for next fall to get more people on it. My big push for the next few years, Steven, is to get people the tools to maximize what they want to do with technology. We’ve gotten the hardware part down, and it’ll be a lot easier to deploy technology. The department is excited about teaching what we (technologists) do.

This sounds exciting, especially for our readers. What are some of your other accomplishments?

Warren Wiechmann: For the curriculum as a whole, we got the Apple Distinguished Program in 2012, and 2013 through 2015, so we’re one of the only medical schools in the United States with an Apple Distinguished Program. I also personally got the award for Apple Distinguished Educator for the School of Medicine. It’s external validation for our work we’re doing. The fact that we got approval for a faculty development academy and have instructors for technology to bring them to the 21st century says a lot. We’ve gotten things published [as well].

Step 1 scores went up but I don’t like bringing up the wrong statistics. It’s so multifactorial and I don’t want to give [just the iPad] more [credit] than it already has. When we’re done with the program, the first 6 months was trying to get the device to work, and the next 18 months was redoing the curriculum to get it to work. It wasn’t [only] because we put iPads into place that we got Step 1 score improvement, but realistically it just means that if you revamp the curriculum [you’ll get higher scores].

We’ve had opportunities to speak at the University of California Office of the President. Not necessarily Apple technology, but we’re trying to encourage more schools in the UC to do things with their students. We’re also at the AAMC, and we’re trying to build a nationwide curriculum for students in social media and if that goes well, that will be a good way to push the digital literacy curriculum through there. We’re trying to do a lot of bigger education things.

In our next article, we’ll dive into Warren Wiechmann’s HealthEdIT initiative.


Steven Chan, M.D., M.B.A., is a resident physician at the University of California, Davis Health System, researching psychiatry, telemedicine, mobile technology, & human behavior. Steve previously worked as a software and web engineer as well as creative designer at Microsoft & UC Berkeley. Visit him at and @StevenChanMD.