Get to Know Your USMLE® Step 1 Becker Faculty: Dr. Craig Goodmurphy

Dr. Craig Goodmurphy, PhD, is a passionate “Anatomy Guy.” He has been preparing medical professionals for success for over 20 years and has earned numerous teaching awards recognizing his talent. He believes in forging a collaborative and dynamic relationship between teacher and student that cultivates the desire to learn. He is currently a Professor and Vice Chair of the Pathology and Anatomy Department at Eastern Virginia Medical School, as well as a USMLE® Step 1 instructor with Becker USMLE® Review.

Dr. Craig Goodmurphy

During our conversation, Dr. Goodmurphy discusses his inspiration for teaching, his passion for anatomy, and his involvement in 3D printing and its implications in healthcare.

What inspired you to pursue a career in education? Do you remember any memorable experiences with your former teachers or community leaders?

It’s important for a community to invest in its students at the outset. I definitely received that from my high school teachers. I had a high school English teacher who was instrumental in keeping us involved and encouraging me to pursue creative outlets in my early years. My high school coaches in soccer, volleyball, and cross-country were all very supportive and poured time and effort into us after hours. Even my French and homeroom teacher was interested in students going above and beyond our academic rigors and also made sure that we were in a fun learning environment. Those teachers and coaches that invested in me early on, and made school a fun learning environment, are a quintessential part of who I am now.

Did those experiences inspire your own teaching style?

Absolutely! If I’m not the most interested and energetic person talking about my topic, how can I expect other people to be energetic and excited about it?

I think being passionate about the subject and the opportunities that it brings are important – especially when students are working really hard and are under a tremendous amount of stress. It’s also important to take a scientific approach to how learners learn well. I try to incorporate both creativity and science into my teaching style.

How did you decide on a career in teaching medical students specifically?

When I was a college student, I went back to my old high school to be a long-term substitute teacher. I wasn’t anticipating teaching an art class! I was always creative, but I’d never taken any formal arts. Moving from the sciences to art made me realize the true art of teaching and making student interested in learning. It’s a true skill that I wanted to investigate more. I decided to explore that skill in an area that really interested me – the human body and medicine.

I’ve always maintained that teaching is both an art and a science. If you can’t encourage a learner to be self-motivated, your teaching won’t translate to learner performance. You have to motivate your students so that they want to learn.

What have been some of your favorite moments as an instructor?

There’s been many along the way! The best moments are when you see a student finally get it because they approach the problem in a new way. It can be a tipping point for how someone uses information. I always say to students, “Information is like food. You have to have healthy relationships with it.” I like the inventiveness of keeping energy in the classroom high and stresses low.

If you weren’t teaching, what would you be doing instead?

I haven’t always been a teacher! I’ve been involved in research and I was also in Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine. Those are areas that I’d still like to be involved. I enjoy the creativity of research and bringing information to learners that they can study independently, instead of being spoon-fed.

I’m really interested in your work thus far on Can you speak more about that effort?

I wanted to give people an easy way to absorb the information about anatomy and the procedural part of going through the dissection. Anatomy Guy is “meducation.” I wanted this resource to be free and accessible – right now, it’s available in 196 different countries. We’ve got over 700 videos, including non-surgical, surgical, pre-clerkship, post-clerkship, and it’s all free! I try to have fun videos, like the Dermatome Jive where we do a rap song about all of the dermatomal distributions to the body. That one is pretty popular.

It’s my way of sharing information with the international community.

Really cool! With a very large audience!

196 countries is more than we have at the Olympics!

Do you incorporate this content into your classroom?

I try to, but I don’t make it a required subscription. It’s just a resource to lead people to consume anatomical information and make it fun! We often work too hard and take ourselves too seriously and in the end it can risk sucking the fun out of medical education. That’s a travesty! Education should always be fun, no matter the subject.

I agree! Do you think keeping education fun is your biggest challenge in preparing your students for the USMLE®?

I think it’s a significant hurtle, yes. The learner is giving up valuable time! How do we make sure that they walk away thinking that this is time well spent? And, how do I make sure that the time that they spend helps them have a healthy relationship with the masses of information that they’re required to know for medicine?

Let’s take a step back – when did your relationship with Becker begin?

I’ve been with Becker since the beginning. They acquired Falcon back in the day and I was working with Falcon already for around 6 years. They kept a couple of us original faculty.

Why do you think students should choose Becker for their exam preparation?

Becker has a really long record of making sure that education is high yield, but also consumable. The team has a ton of experience and enough input into how things are structured so that we’re using a very educational, student-centered product. The talented faculty has been very good at getting a nice, understandable story to students with a broad enough component of information that you can fill your gaps along the way. Rather than having 100 sources of information, I think Becker has helped students to focus on asking the right questions.

It’s the memorization vs. understanding philosophy.

Right, exactly.

To wrap up – what currently interests you most in healthcare?

One of the things that I’m involved in is 3D printing. I’ve got several projects related to 3D printing and healthcare, including ENT, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, and Obstetrics. We’re currently working on cleft palate models to send to organizations like Operation Smile where they can teach people in other countries how to repair cleft palates as opposed to just doing the surgeries themselves.

I also think that ultrasound is an incredibly hot topic and I serve on several boards for the integration of ultrasound into medical education. We have ultrasound phantoms for early fetal development for medical students. We also have ultrasound phantoms for foreign bodies and the eye.

Interesting! I’ve never considered the applications of 3D printing in healthcare.

That’s what makes medical education creative!

Is there anything else that you’d like to share?

My job is to show my students the joy and privilege of education. When I do the Studying and Note Taking Skills course for Becker, I tell my students, “there are so many people who work harder than you, but they’ll never get the opportunity to be a healer like you will.” We need to realize that we’re not the ones working the hardest in the world, but we can have some wonderful opportunities if we continue to work hard. We have to work hard out of respect for those who don’t have those opportunities.