Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Funkmaster Flex and the Future of Medical Education

So I know you all have been thinking that I forgot about a very important milestone this year because I haven't mentioned it in the blog yet. No, it's not my parents' 30th anniversary (although that is a big one!) or my 24th birthday (also a big one!); keep guessing...

OK fine, I'll just tell you. This year is the 100th anniversary of the FLEXNER REPORT! That was your next guess, right? I know not everyone is quite as interested in science history as I am, so I don't want to bore you too much, but I had to talk about it in at least one blog post. Basically everything we do in medical school, the classes we take, the number of years it takes, the necessary science pre-requisites (I still vomit in my mouth a little every time I think of physics), are all because of this guy Abraham Flexner and the Council on Medical Education in 1910.

young Flex

Back in the good old days of the 'aughts (as I'm sure the first decade of the 19oo's was popularly called, similarly to the years 2000-2009), there were over 150 medical schools in the US and Canada, all with completely different curricula and requirements - some didn't even ask for a high school diploma for entry!

But Flexner's scathing report on the state of medical education and his recommendations that went with it brought about huge changes in the system, including the closure of many sub-par schools and the standardization of most aspects of training, causing an undisputed positive effect on the quality of doctors.

old Flex

There are a million things I could go into right now about how things have changed or stayed the same since Flexner's heyday and what is still relevant. But relax, I know this is already long, so I won't go into all one million of them.

One thing I do want to point out though is what seems to be a growing de-emphasis on science as the end-all be-all, and instead a focus on becoming a socially, economically, and politically-conscious physician. With the rising use of technology (like typing notes on laptops during patient interviews) and the increasing number of patients it seems like doctors, especially primary care doctors, have to take on each day to be cost-effective, the human element of being a physician looks like it is in danger of being lost.

funkmaster Flex

100 years ago, medical education was in dire need of an upheaval, and that need was met with more science. Today we get the science, but the so-called "pre-med syndrome" can get in the way of becoming a compassionate, informed doctor. As Flexner himself believed (I'm not assuming here; I totally know what all his personal thoughts were), continual self-assessment and making appropriate changes based on that assessment are essential. No major upheaval (in med school curricula, anyway) is needed, but I personally am a fan of the small changes many med schools have recently been making in the gradual evolution of the education system. BUT I was a humanities major, and I'm not a fan of biochem, so disclaimer: I'm biased.

still interested? check out this NEJM article on the Flexner report or this NYTimes article on humanities in medicine or this AMA article that actually has specifics on how medical education is evolving.

1 comment:

  1. You're so bad that lets me be full of curiosity to read your entire article. But you have a good sense of humor, and if it's your parents' 30 year anniversary or your 24 year old day, I'm going to congratulate you.