Don’t get lost in the minutiae of medical school

October 5, 2011

Got a nice email from one of my medical students today. Here is a brief piece:

“…Teaching medical students about obesity is so important and it would nicely fit into a semester-long course. Instead of wasting endless hours on learning about the biopsychosocial model as a vague concept, we could actually spend time learning about direct approaches to specific problems that all physicians face (depression, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.) Instead of spending one lecture on a multitude of topics we should spend most of our time on the most common pathologies/illnesses. You’re advice to me to “not get lost in the minutiae of medical school” is so important because medical school is all about the minutiae and it’s easy to forget that there is a civilization beyond the medical school/hospital doors where most of our learning will actually take place. It’s ironic that physicians often say “don’t look for zebras” when the first 2 years of med school are all about the zebras (rare disorders). I’m not sure what has to happen to shift the focus; it’s something I need to look into.”

It can’t be easy putting together a 4-year medical school curriculum; there’s certainly lots of stuff to cram into young med students’ brains in a short time. But we really need to rethink the process. We waste a lot of time on things that no one will remember, let alone appreciate, and we fail to teach the stuff that really matters. Like relating to patients, building relationships, and helping guide and partner with patients on difficult behavior changes and health and life choices…not to mention some real education and guidance in how to work with patients who have obesity and other chronic diseases.

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