Personalized Medical Education

Medical Schools or medical education is mainly done in universities. Medical education in universities especially undergraduate education in North America as well as in Europe are full with very basic science such as chemistry, physics, but also laboratory branches such as biochemical education. I can still remember long afternoons using a pipette in endless rows of test tubes. Scientific research is also integrated in Med Schools. Even community based schools are strongly connected with universities.

This model stems from the beginning of the previous century. Obviously medical education liaised with the universities has many benefits, the close partnership results in a scientific approach and early adaption of scientific discoveries in the medical curricula. But medical education is also about training good professionals as well as good communicators. The modern physician also needs knowledge about prevention, medical decision making, ethics and cultural competence to name a few. This kind of knowledge needed by modern physicians is very different from the knowledge learned in basic sciences taught during medical education.

The solution to this problem is according to some authors:

A richer, broader education that can be achieved through more flexible and individualized paths to the MD and facilitated by realizing medical schools’ full academic citizenship in the university.

This proposal for more individual learner-centered education is the new buzz in medical education. Medical students should have the opportunity to follow their intellectual curiosity about phenomena of illness and disease, their understanding of the human condition, and their exploration of the many other disciplines that relate to medicine and the life sciences.

Students might explore issues of stigma or disability, or the economics of health care. Those interested in pediatrics could study the history of childhood, cross-cultural breastfeeding practices, or public policy that affects children’s health. The possibilities are legion, and few (geology, perhaps?) are irrelevant to clinical practice, medical research, or the societal contributions of the profession.

The main problem is the fact that medical curricula are all ready overcrowded with required content. This limits the pursuit of individualized interests and learning goals. The solution to this problem from the authors of one of the recent publications on this subject is the adaptation of the medical curriculum to the need of the medical student. Those wanting to become a surgeon can have different needs with more procedural and technical skills than those becoming a psychiatrist.

Psychiatry medical student education e.g. should consist of three subsets in addition to a core curriculum. A track for students bound to become primary care physicians. This curriculum would include more detailed knowledge and skills in assessment and actual treatment of straightforward presentations of common mental disorders. Another track for them interested in neuroscience research. This should consist of the core curriculum and additional emphasis on neuroscience electives and research throughout the course of medical school. The last track is for those aiming at becoming psychiatrists. They should broaden their knowledge and skills in other fields since this could be their last available opportunity before becoming a psychiatrist.

The new medical education should be broader and more personalized with flexible and individualized paths to the MD. Choices should be made also during clerkship towards future interests, but how many students already know what they want to be. To my opinion very few, what do you think?. These are just a few options mentioned in the articles discussed. To me the personalized view on medical education was the most interesting part and important overlap between the discussed articles.
Curry RH, & Montgomery K (2010). Toward a liberal education in medicine. Academic medicine : journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 85 (2), 283-7 PMID: 20107358
Thornhill JT 4th, & Tong L (2006). From Yoda to Sackett: the future of psychiatry medical student education. Academic psychiatry : the journal of the American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training and the Association for Academic Psychiatry, 30 (1), 23-8 PMID: 16473990