A faculty member in the Department of Health Sciences has taken the idea of magic in the classroom to a whole new level, theming her online Introduction to Pharmacology class after the potions class in Harry Potter.

Martha Garcia-Stout, a health sciences lecturer (and self-declared Slytherin), casts her own spell over the online course to make the material memorable and engage students in what some might consider a boring topic.

“I knew I wanted to create case studies to get students interacting with the material,” Garcia-Stout says. “And that meant creating a lot of different characters. And I thought, ‘Hmmm, Harry Potter has a lot of characters and you can assign a diagnosis for some of them.’”

As she thought through it, she started to see she had a lot of material to work with: “Mad-Eye” Moody needs eye drops for glaucoma, Bellatrix needs antipsychotic drugs for schizophrenia, Vernon Dursley needs high-blood-pressure medication, Harry needs nerve pain medication for migraines. It wasn’t hard for her to prescribe for the characters since in addition to being a pharmacist, she is a huge fan of Harry Potter.

The inclusion of fictional characters in case studies has proven to be the magic ingredient in student success.

Each time students are introduced to a new classification of drugs, they first meet the Harry Potter character who needs the drug or “potion” to cure them. Garcia-Stout says this helps make pharmacology memorable. Otherwise, the long, complicated names of drugs could cast a sleeping spell over students.

The inclusion of fictional characters in her case studies has proven to be the magic ingredient in student success. Garcia-Stout says students are discussing and engaging more in this online course than any others she has taught.

One student, Bonnie Kerlin, enjoyed making the connections between her favorite characters and the medicines they could benefit from. She says the class offered her a way to connect with the material unlike any class experience she had before. She even found herself discussing the content with other Harry Potter fans at her work.

“We would relive some of the injuries and wounds they got in the books and talk about how they would’ve been handled in the Muggle world,” Kerlin says.

Ashley Appadu is enrolled in the course this semester and says she loves it.

“The class is interesting itself, and I am a huge Harry Potter fan,” she says. ”Adding the theme to the class makes it that much more enjoyable. I wish more of my classes incorporated themes like this.”

Not a Harry Potter fan? Not a problem. Even Muggle-born students can find success in this class.

“Even if you’ve never come across the characters before, you can still make the diagnosis based on the symptoms I’ve given,” Garcia-Stout says.

Garcia-Stout says she is pleased to see students enjoying the curriculum and learning important concepts that will set them up for a successful career in health care.

“If I were a student, I wouldn’t want to see just words, writing and no pictures or videos in an online course,” she says. “I’d want to see anything that makes it interesting. I just wanted to bring some life to the class.”