Frank J Papa, PhD, DO

Frank Papa, PhD,

Professor - Medical Education
Medical Education
Research interests:Develops web-based, artificial intelligence tools designed to give medical students advanced instruction and assessment in differential diagnosis.

More 30 years ago, a medical student asked Frank Papa, DO, PhD, a simple, yet profound, question. That question about a diagnosis, he says, “changed my life”—and, fundamentally, his thinking about how modern medicine should be taught. The student asked how Dr. Papa had diagnosed an atypical heart attack patient. His reply, however, didn’t answer the question—even after he had the student repeat it. Afterward, Dr. Papa realized the student wanted to know how he weighed the value of each of the patient’s signs or symptoms—one by one—to make the correct diagnosis. That question and the research that followed became the basis for KBIT, a knowledge base inference tool that Dr. Papa has used for three decades to advance medical education. In the process, he’s introduced some disruptive technology to challenge traditional thinking.

Unlike a classroom lecture, KBIT provides students with a brief, online introduction to a disease, and then presents a lot of practice opportunities to diagnose it. With KBIT learning, Dr. Papa says, you establish a baseline of where a student’s thinking is now. Then, you help him learn how to discriminately identify a disease, applying a differential diagnosis that goes beyond the classical signs and symptoms found in textbooks.

It’s the difference between lecture-style declarative knowledge, which is passive learning, and procedural knowledge, where students repeatedly practice what they’ve just learned. To mainstream this approach, Dr. Papa directs the UNTHSC Academy of Medical Educators, comprised of about 50 faculty members dedicated to improving their knowledge and skills. Among their goals is developing an application-focused curriculum, with a learning sciences-based approach to educating 21stvcentury medical students. Dr. Papa believes it can change the trajectory of higher education, accelerating how students become competent, proficient, then experts and finally masters in their medical profession.
Academic:Post-doctoral training at Harvard University

Doctor of Philosophy, Higher Education, University of North Texas

Board certification (osteopathic and allopathic), American Board of Emergency Medicine

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

Bachelor of Arts, Pre-Med, La Salle University


Honors:Numerous awards for published educational research activities from groups such as the Association of American Medical Colleges, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, Decision Sciences Institute, and the American College of Emergency Physicians.

2006 – Invited speaker at the Pattern Recognition in Physician’s Diagnosis/Invited Symposium. The 22nd International Annual Meeting of the Brunswik Society (Houston).

2003 – Recipient of the Robert A. Kistner Award for outstanding contributions to osteopathic medical education, American Association of Osteopathic Medical Colleges.

2003 – Lead speaker at the American Osteopathic Association Medical Education Leadership Conference.