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Friday, November 21, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Future Doctors! (Part I)

85 students in our class. That's 85 doctors to be released into the "general circulation" in 2 years time. 85 healers, who will be trusted with people's lives and well-being. Patients beware!

Our society has become overcrowded with physicians. It is my firm belief that the system, and access to a medical education, and, more importantly, to the coveted Doctorate of Medicine, has been commercialized and secretively downgraded to a level that compromises the very essence of medicine. How do I know this? I don't, so call it a conspiracy theory if you want to. But if we look carefully at recent trends and attitudes, the kinds of medical students that currently populate our classrooms, as well as the quality of health care that we obtain as patients, observe as students, and, eventually, will provide as physicians, an image so vivid is painted of the shortcomings of our system that one would need to be blind to overlook it. Here's what I'm thinking about.

The Quintessence of the Medical Profession in Jeopardy: Medical Doctor vs. Healer

We're a smart bunch (smart is debatable, and will be discussed later but let's call it smart for now). There are more overachieving students per square meter in a med school lecture hall than in any other lecture hall out there. Oh, do I sound too affirmative? If I do, at least allow me this: there are more overachievers per square meter in my class than in any other class I've ever been in or even heard of. The steps taken by the system in selecting the precious few that will be given a chance to graduate as doctors are many, and there is no denying that everyone, or almost everyone that is in this class deserves to be here. Right?

Well... I'm not so sure... I think here lies the problem; here, we need to stop for a few seconds and file a few definitions. What are the selection criteria? Exactly how does one define an overachiever? According to 1 definition or the other, or still the other (be careful which one you choose!), is this person truly fit for a career in medicine?

What is my point? Very simple. There is a vast vast difference between: (1) someone who is smart enough to go through high school, undergrad, and 4 years of medical school and pass with very high, if not the highest, grades, and (2) someone who is simply fit, overall (grades, compassion, personality what have you), for a career in medicine. Allow me to say that to bridge this gap with the assumption that everyone in a medical school classroom has probably been selected by people who knew what they were doing, and therefore that this student will probably make an excellent healer, would be making a serious mistake, one that would undermine the meaning and prestige ascribed to the medical profession. It is this sad, sad mistake that our society is making at this time.
But Who Cares What People Think?? Oh how I wish it were that simple! It is the sad reality that our trusted, self-proclaimed world-class (remember?) administrative process does NOT make the aforementioned distinction. Allow me to elaborate. Simply put, ours is a system in which the most adamant of bookworms thrive, because ever since my sophomore year, the exams we've been given have been relentlessly trying to test how many times each student has gone through the material in the ridiculously short time that they've been given to prepare, and therefore how many senseless insignificant details a student can cram in his or her mind during the final minutes before entering the exam room. This applies to every single course we have taken. I mean I would completely understand this in anatomy, neuroanatomy, and histology, to name a few but they have even made it work in the logical realms of statistics, biophysics, and physiology.

More to follow in part II