Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Improving Medical Education

As a pre-med student I have always had my doubts about the way in which students who want to pursue medicine are prepared for medical school, and how those students who are accepted to medical school are actually chosen and trained. I've never been one to take too kindly to strict criteria or highly restrictive systems, so the whole process has always rubbed me the wrong way for various reasons. But Groopman's book really enforced my beliefs and showed me that my view on the issue is not just a result of my inherent rebelliousness, or my personal disdain for the medical school admissions and education process, but is actually a serious problem that needs to be addressed. 

Of course since I plan on pursuing a career in medicine I love the natural sciences and believe they are key for developing a solid foundation in medicine. But I don't think the way in which they are taught to students who plan on going into the medical field is at all beneficial in terms of building the foundation of becoming a great doctor. Pre-med students are constantly told that memorization is not the aim of the courses we have to take to move on to applying to medical school, but I've always felt that when it comes down to it, how much information a student can cram into their memories before an exam date is the only thing we are tested on (with very few exceptions). I think that in preparation for medical school, universities should place more value on developing critical thinking, reasoning and communication skills in students as opposed to pure knowledge retention, which would be a great step towards limiting medical errors caused by doctors who do not listen to their patients and are unable to take into account the fact that although medicine is a science, our bodies are very unique and cannot be reduced down to memorized diagnostic algorithms.


  1. I would definitely agree that the current way that medicine is taught needs to be reformed in America. Especially after reading Groopman's book and learning about how he used to keep index cards of information in his pocket when he started out as an intern, I realize that much of what goes into being a great doctor is practical experience. It is not just knowing the information, but it also about being able to keep calm in difficult situations and learn to not panic. Knowing information is useless if one does not know how to implement it in real life.

    In addition, a doctor's personality is something that is greatly overlooked in both the testing of doctors and by expectations of patients. I remember one of my friends from Singapore telling me how she had to take a few tests when she was in high school to determine which education route she could enter. Although she passed the technical knowledge test for becoming a doctor, she failed the personality test because they deemed her too shy with poor leadership skills. As a result, she was denied the doctor education path, making it near to impossible for her to attain a medical degree in Singapore. And all of this was decided while she was still in high school. While I think that this might be too extreme for America, a personality assessment in some form would be interesting to add to the new MCAT, instead of just a new section testing knowledge of social science.

  2. I definitely agree with this post because I use to be a pre-med student at NYU as well my freshman year, and at times I did not even feel like I was because I did not feel like I was learning anything that would be relevant to me in medical school or even in the future except maybe on the MCAT exam. But then again, how am I supposed to remember 40 chapters of Biology and 30 chapters of Chemistry for an exam that i was not going to take for another 2 years. Although all the professors say that the information we learn can't be memorized and has to be understood I feel as if there is no true way to understand everything in the complex way that we learn it. Even with an understanding there is no way that somebody can know bout tne deeper processes of Biology just by "understanding" them. It has to be memorized and practice over and over in your mind. Information like this, I feel will not be very much help in the medical world because that knowledge comes with true understanding, practice, and a lot of experience, which a pre-med student does not get.
    I also agree that the way and the process of admitting somebody to medical school is not right either. I feel almost as i it is too robotic because they mostly base it off of your grades in your medical classes and your MCAT exam which only tests biology, chemistry, physics, and now sociology of behavior. But what does that prove about a person's future ability to become a practicing doctor? Literally, nothing. Because even the smartest person in science in the world can be extremely too shy, nervous, and have a bad personality and leadership skills so they will never fit the correct mold of a doctor and no matter how hard they work they probably won't become as sucessful as they look on paper.

  3. Having survived the pre-med process, it is difficult not to empathize with Vittoria's views. Organic chemistry aside I have found most of the classes uninspiring, memorizing intensive, and meaningless in my own personal development. The way these sciences are taught did less to fuel my interest in the scientific world, and more to view them as prerequisites. To me this is a shame because it undermines what I perceive as the true meaning of college. For students hoping to attend medical school, the potential for a truly thoughtful and fulfilling academic journey will likely be traded for a mindless and drilling process, which disheartens and alienates.
    I think this is a shame, and likely why medical schools like applicants who have more zany majors; they are usually the ones who have some therapy against the mindless weed out classes. But in some sense I sometimes believe that pre=med classes are necessary. They encourage grit, and test those who have the nerve to continue and persevere. Being a physician today requires that aggression and drive. Personality is important, but grit and competence are a requirement.