October 14, 2011
The Connecticut Post
The New York Times in its October 11 issue published an article “An Innovator Shapes an Empire” which mentioned Dr. Desmond-Hellman’s ideas for changing medical school education by customizing medical education so that students can tailor their education to the communities they may be serving.
As chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, her comments about “customization” of medical education are important. Most medical schools and residencies have a standardized program that imposes on physicians what they deem appropriate. This model is reinforced by certifying boards that pressure physicians to undergo periodic “one size fits all” exams that test them on information that often is irrelevant to what they actually need to know in their individual practices.
For example, primary care doctors practicing in cosmopolitan areas that have a large number of specialists in the community need a different set of skills than primary care doctors practicing in low-income neighborhoods or in rural communities. The problems in all three of these venues are different and require different skill sets.
Customizing the way doctors are trained, especially primary care doctors has great potential to improve the way health care is delivered because often they are the first access point for patients in to the health system. And they also have first-hand knowledge of the social and economic problems that make good medical care difficult for many patients.
Edward J. Volpintesta MD
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