Expansion is going on at almost all the medical schools in the U.S., and this is expected to increase the physician population by some 5,000 new doctors by 2020. According to a new report, medical educators should look at this expansion as an opportunity to explore bold, innovative ways to improve medical education, including better alignment of medical training with societal needs and incorporate contemporary realities, such as the rapid pace of scientific discovery, calls for more public accountability, acknowledging the unsustainable cost of healthcare as well as unconscionable racial and ethnic disparities, and the increasing burden of chronic illness and disability.
The report, Revisiting the Medical School Educational Mission at a Time of Expansion, summarizes discussion that took place between the 36 participants at a conference held this past October in Charleston, S.C. The conference and report were sponsored by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that aims to advance healthcare training and education.
Participants focused on issues such as how educational debt shapes career and practice choices, and the conspicuous gap between the high professional standards called for in the classroom and the behavior on display in clinical environments. Recommendations in the report include reorganizing the curriculum so graduation requirements could be met in three years rather than four to reduce debt, fostering teamwork and better dissemination of information about innovative programs, and ensuring that all medical students retain their enthusiasm for medicine and remain committed to its societal missions.
During a news conference, Jordan Cohen, M.D., co-chair of the Macy Conference and former president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said that overarching message of the report and conference is that medical schools must accelerate their rate of change and generally unleash their creativity.
One way to do this, Cohen suggested, was to look beyond academic measures when choosing medical students and to also take in account candidates maturity and commitment to serving others. He also called on students to take more responsibility for their learning and to design their own schedules and seek out what they need to know to achieve their educational objectives.