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A proposal to evolve medical education

I stumbled upon an interesting article a few days ago, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which proposed changing the way we currently teach medicine. The authors discuss how medical education has been largely unchanged in its instruction since 1910. Yet things have drastically changed with regards to how we can deliver education as well as the vast growth of knowledge that has occurred since then.

The authors rightly point out that most medical schools delay the application of clinical cases in discussing basic sciences until more senior years. Though the subject matters being delivered are essential to understanding medicine, the article questions if we ought to think about changing education so that lectures in their current manner could rather be viewed at home and that class time be spent discussing clinical cases and how they relate to basic sciences.

The authors of the article also make a strong case by stating, "Since the hours available in a day have not increased to accommodate the expanded medical canon, we have only one realistic alternative: make better use of our students' time". They go on to discuss that this could be achieved by making information "stickier" and how this could be accomplished: "Research has elucidated the factors that make ideas sticky. For instance, messages are stickier when they are unexpected enough to capture our curiosity."

Indeed, I agree with the authors. Medical information continues to grow and students already spend most of their medical years reading or preparing for exams when outside of lecture halls and labs. From my experience, professors that engaged students and posed questions that sometimes had clear answers but remained thought provoking were the most captivating. Indeed, I can recall some of these questions. One which comes to mind now -- "do you think that the inflammatory process which follows a heart attack is a beneficial or harmful response?" It is my view that such questions not only require thought but are intriguing. After all, the question must have had an impact on me if I can recall it as vividly as I do now.

To conclude this post, I would like to point out that opening up classrooms for student engagement through case studies even during the early years of education as proposed here is not limited only to medicine, surely other science disciplines could apply similar methods in their classrooms. And, I invite you to share your experience below.

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