AMA wants to change learning at all levels

The Council on Medical Education has a new initiative to improve the system.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted July 3, 2006

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Medical education, from the pre-med pipeline up through continuing medical education, desperately needs an overhaul, according to the American Medical Association and its Council on Medical Education, which is spearheading the Initiative to Transform Medical Education.

"The AMA wants to ensure that the medical education system in this country keeps up with the medical needs of Americans," said AMA board Trustee William A. Hazel Jr., MD.

Council Chair Carl A. Sirio, MD, revealed the results of the group's first brainstorming session to delegates at the Association's Annual Meeting in June and elicited delegates' ideas on what problems and solutions they believed needed addressing.

Further input will be gathered at a meeting scheduled for September. More than 100 people involved in health care are expected to attend, including medical students, medical school educators, government officials and insurance executives. By 2007, the initiative's leaders expect to have a strategic plan to present to the AMA.

In the initial brainstorming session, members of the Initiative to Transform Medical Education identified strengths and weaknesses of the medical profession that result from the current system.

Strengths of the education system include:

  • Doctors are knowledgeable and technically proficient in providing care for acute conditions.
  • Physicians harbor a strong commitment to the care of their patients.
  • They are respected as credible sources of information by patients and the public.

Weaknesses include:

  • Doctors aren't trained to conduct performance improvement assessments of their own practices or health care systems.
  • Physicians are not skilled advocates for patients outside of the confines of the office.
  • They sometimes lose their altruism during training.
  • They are uncomfortable conveying incomplete or conflicting information to patients when a treatment path is unclear.
  • Excluding new graduates, most physicians are not savvy at managing new technology.
  • Doctors are trained to function autonomously and then are asked to practice in the confines of managed care.
  • Physicians treat individual patients well but are not prepared to exercise a population-based perspective.
  • They lack effective patient-communication skills.

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