Daniel Esgardo Rangel Barón: What Medical Students Need to Know – The Zero-Sum Curriculum

You don’t have to spend too much time on Twitter to find ideas about what people think medical students need to know. From health economics and climate change to value-based care and informatics, it seems there’s no shortage of new competencies.

And every person with a new suggestion about what doctors need to master believes their idea would be transformative. I’m as guilty as anyone with my endless evangelizing that doctors should know how to navigate public networks for advocacy and professional presence.

The problem is that didactic medical education is an 18-24 month fixed space at the start of medical school. Any curriculum dean will tell you that pre-clinical education is a zero-sum game. What’s added requires that something be taken away. It’s a nightmare for medical education professionals who are challenged with balancing powerful institutional interests with educational regulation.

Complicating matters is the fact that none of us know what doctors will do in the future. We all have ideas but we just don’t know. The role of the physician is changing faster than any institution can keep up.

To take it a step further, knowing who to select for medical school creates more challenges. Eric Topol in his visionary new book, Deep Medicine – How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Medicine Human Again, suggests that AI will level the playing field of traditionally ‘brilliant’ doctors. In a medical world increasingly machine-driven he believes we will ultimately need to select the most emotionally intelligent medical school candidates.

Each of us see medical education and the needs of the next generation through our own lens. It’s really interesting to watch. And all of these suggestions reflect where we individually see legitimate pain points.

Suggesting what medical students need to know is easy. But making the argument for what doctors no longer need to know is harder.

If you like this post check out the 33 charts Medical Education Archives. It’s a collection of everything MedEd that’s ever been written here.

Image of the MGH Ether Dome via Flickr.

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