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February 08, 2009

On Reform of Medical Education

Calls for reform of medical education in the U.S. are well over a century old.  Though most refer to the 1910 Flexner Report as the signal event in this tradition, calls for reform in fact are significantly older, and one can see as such, for example, in the 1847 inaugural meeting of the American Medical Association.

The Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, which is devoted to improving medical education and improving minority representation in the health professions, recently released a Report of the Conference on Revisiting the Medical School Educational Mission at a Time of Expansion.  According to the press release accompanying the Report, the participants

urged the nation’s medical schools to reform their educational model because it too often fails to give new physicians the right mix of competencies and experiences to  practice medicine effectively. The call to action for education reform comes as medical schools are expanding their enrollments for the first time in 30 years to address a shortage of physicians in the United States.

[ . . . ]

Highlights of what areas schools should focus on:

  • Giving student more opportunities to learn the principles of quality improvement, patient safety and patient-centered care;

  • Preparing students to work effectively and collaborative as members of health care teams and as part of a system of care;

  • Using community-based settings more as classrooms, and hospital settings less, to expose students to a more realistic practice environment;
  • Ensuring that physicians have more background in public health education  and the role that social factors play in affecting patient health; and
  • Emphasizing the importance of problem solving and self-directed learning as a way to keep up with the fast-paced health care environment.

You can download the full report here(PDF).

(For the record, I have many thoughts on the current state and future of medical education, but will reserve them for future blog posts).


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Thank you for drawing my attention to this. I work in the UK and wonder how true the report's findings are for us.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Anne Marie

Hey Anne Marie,

Sadly, I know very little about the ins and outs of medical education in the UK. However, I am familiar with Nisha Dogra's work, and based on that, I can say that at least some of the more serious problems seem to be common to both sets of pedagogies.

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