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Why not just run an experiment with med school?

March 17, 2014

Medical education was highlighted in the comments of an ILYBYGTH post last week. Right on cue, Brian Palmer explores new ways of educating doctors (emphasis added):

We need more doctors. On a global scale, the shortage is staggering: The World Health Organization says we need 15 percent more doctors. In the United States, the American Association of Medical Colleges estimates the current deficit at almost 60,000 and forecasts a worrisome 130,600-doctor shortfall by 2025. There’s one simple solution: We have to consider ways to manufacture doctors faster and cheaper…

Our current medical education system was originally designed to reduce the total number of people entering the profession. The academic medical schools that sprang up around the country—such as the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1889—made college education a prerequisite….The current system has costs beyond making doctors expensive and rare. The long process doesn’t just weed out the incompetent and the lazy from the potential pool of physicians—it deters students who can’t pay for so many years of education or who need to make money quickly to support their families. That introduces a significant class bias into the physician population, depriving a large proportion of the population of doctors who understand their background, values, and challenges.

One solution is to simply lop off a few years from the process. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012, bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel (one of those Emanuels) and economist Victor Fuchs recommended shortening each stage by about 30 percent. Four years of premedical training shouldn’t be a requirement for those who don’t want it or can’t afford it, they argued. The fourth year of medical school is largely a breeze, and a few progressive medical schools are now offering three-year programs to reflect that reality.

As for postgraduate training, Emanuel and Fuchs attacked the increasingly common requirement that residents and fellows complete laboratory or clinical research projects. They don’t buy the popular ideal that every doctor must be a “physician-scientist.” Referring specifically to surgeons, they wrote, “The most important factor in becoming a competent surgeon is high volume—performing specific procedures many times over. A research year does not add to surgical volume and skills building.”…

“Experiment” is the key word. The fundamental problem here is that the argument between traditionalists and reformers is essentially theoretical..It’s ironic, because in virtually every other aspect of medicine, tradition and intuition were discarded decades ago…But doctors have very rarely examined their own training.

There is no reason not to do this important research. More than a dozen medical schools now offer high school graduates the chance to earn a medical degree in six or seven years.  Fellowship programs also vary in length. It’s time to compare the medical boards scores, patient mortality rates, and other metrics for doctors with different lengths of training.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Victor permalink
    March 22, 2014 2:31 pm

    It’s true. You can become a doctor more quickly and at a younger age in other countries like the UK or South Africa, for instance.

    How does this relate to your usual creation-science-focused blogs?

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