Five Goals for Preparing Great Case Study Presentations

Creating and Giving Case PresenationsCase study presentations are a necessary evil of medicine, because we rely so much on teaching each other to learn, and our futures will be filled with CME based on power points. Third year is when most medical students dip their toes into the presentation waters – there are sharks (your attendings) and piranhas (gunner students) in those depths, so you need to prepare well and present properly.

“Welcome to third year, we expect you to find an interesting case and present on it next week! Good luck!” Don’t worry, we have the basics, the fancy and even a sample presentation for you to use.

The Basics

The ACP has a great page on clinical vignettes and a PDF checklist you can use. Briefly, your five goals are:

  1. Pick a case
  2. Present HPI, PE, Labs
  3. Present course in clinic/hospital
  4. Present a lesson learned from the case
  5. Allow discussion, be prepared for questions about various related errata

Next Level

Follow the 5-5-5 rule discussed on the Pallimed Blog: keep your titles SHORT, only have five bullets per slide and keep each line five words long. What service you’re on determines how long your presentation will be, but a good rule of thumb is to plan to talk for ten minutes. Interruptions will make this stretch from 15-30 minutes in the hot seat, so expect that. Remember that presentations are dull, so it’s okay to spice it up with photos relevant to the case. You can use an X-ray that demonstrates a point, even if it’s not for your patient. You can dramatize your presentation by focusing on what could have gone wrong, and how to prevent or handle that situation. And remember that this is also a chance to learn, so accept constructive criticism as a way to do better on your next case presentation.

Do NOT use Prezzi, fancy fonts, music, slide transitions and a ton of distracting rubbish. The folks grading you will care more about the content than the fact you can point & click in Prezzi.

How to Create Your Case Presentation?

I highly recommend using Google Slides, because technology and access varies. I’ve had flash drives fail on me, and often been unable to get an old version of powerpoint to open a new presentation without totally destroying the formatting. Google slides looks the same everywhere, and your images will stay where they belong. See the references section for a link to a demo presentation made in GS.

Hate to Cite?

Mick Schroeder has you covered, with a great generator for citations. Enter a PubMed ID, ISBN number, or URL and you need not remember AMA style at all. I love it.

A Note of Caution

It can be tempting to put a funny meme or cat picture into your case study presentation, especially if you’ve seen residents do it. Keep in mind that you are still a student and judged differently. Your goal should always be to exceed expectations and behave professionally, not make your fellow med students laugh.

By Pixie




  1. ACP’s Presenting a Clinical Vignette: Deciding What to Present
  2. Pallimed Blog Giving a Great Medical Presentation
  3. Mick Schroeder Citation Generator
  4. Uni of Washington Guide to Case Writeups
  5. Uni of Illinois’s AMA Style Guide
  6. Google Slides Free Demo Presentation



Pixie is happiest reading with a cup of tea in hand. She enjoys women’s health, adolescent medicine, painting and polymer clay. For more info, see her much longer bio on the author page.

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