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Dr. Paula Stillman, MD Joins UMass Chan Medical School and Establishes One of the Longest-running Program that Integrates Standardized Patients (SPs), Physical Exam (PE) Instructors, Master Interview Rating Scale (MIRS) and Objective Structured Clinical Evaluations (OSCE)

Click to watch Dr. Paula L. Stillman's video from the National Library of Medicine

WORCESTER, Massachusetts, 1982 - Dr. Paula Stillman, M.D., a renowned pediatrician, created the Arizona Clinical Interview Rating Scale (ACIRS) in 1977.

Upon joining UMass Chan Medical School, she started training SPs into patient instructors who would be able to assess and give feedback to medical learners at clinical practice examinations. ACIRS was updated into the Master Interview Rating Scale (MIRS). An SP consortium was formed among medical schools nearby. Thus begins one of the very first organized, large-scale standardized patient programs in the U.S.

Dr. Howard Barrows described Dr. Paula Stillman as a fellow pioneer in the field of standardized patients in his paper "An overview of the uses of standardized patients for teaching and evaluating clinical skills", which has been cited more than 1150 times in the 28 years since its was published in 1993:

"During the 1960s and 1970s and even in the early 1980s, work with the standardized patient was a relatively lonely undertaking, as very few people seemed to be interested in the value of the technique for teaching and assessment.

However, one other lone voice that appeared in the mid 1970s to advocate the use of the standardized patient in medical education was that of Paula Stillman.

She developed and validated the Arizona Clinical Interview Rating Scale, an important tool for scoring competence in clinical examination. She trained mothers to simulate problems for student assessment in pediatrics. She developed the technique of patient instructors that could assess students and residents in their abilities to evaluate patients' problems.

Along with Dave Swanson, she developed an extensive assessment of residents' skills in many of the New England schools. At the University of
Massachusetts she also developed a program to assess the diagnostic performances of fourth-year students.

More recently, Dr. Stillman has directed and coordinated a large-scale multi-center pilot with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates using standardized patients to assess the abilities of foreign medical graduates to enter residency training in the United States. This valuable study should provide us with many insights about the use of standardized patients to assess residents."

Later, Dr. Stillman went on to further her career at the Eastern Virginia Medical School and Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia. With the strong foundation that Dr. Stillman has laid, UMass Chan Medical School grew from strength to strength in its simulation activities, and now has one of the longest-running standardized patient program in the United States.


Barrows HS. An overview of the uses of standardized patients for teaching and evaluating clinical skills. AAMC. Acad Med. 1993 Jun;68(6):443-51; discussion 451-3. doi: 10.1097/00001888-199306000-00002. PMID: 8507309. Accessible online at

U.S. National Library of Medicine. Dr. Paula L. Stillman - Changing the Face of Medicine. Accessible online at


Last updated May 11th, 2021

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