An interesting discourse has popped up recently surrounding medical education and its role in training physicians about social issues. Dr. Goldfarb argues that, “at ‘woke’ medical schools, curricula are increasingly focused on social justice rather than treating illness.” But his statements have met with pushback from other medical educators.
I think this discourse is fascinating to read, especially on the heels of a pedagogical course in which we examined how to teach writing, and recently implementing an aviation ground course on campus. There is so much more involved in teaching than I had ever expected, so this glimpse of the philosophy behind what medical students get taught is certainly eye-opening, but not surprising. What does surprise me, however, is the dynamic between modern educational thought and the hierarchical medical structure.
Todays world of medicine is filled with these dichotomies between old-age ideals and modern technological innovation. Specialties have become the norm for treatment, and no singular physician can adequately expect to treat the “whole person” as we might have imagined only 50 years ago. With increasing specialization, care has become fragmented. Increased fragmentation has led to patients bearing the burden of coordination.
I do agree that tangentially related topics need not be given much time or dedication in an already packed curriculum. However, the underlying assumption that climate change, gun policy, and other social issues constitute as tangential betrays the point. Old school medical education gave rise to the current epidemic of overspecialization, so to continue the same pedagogical philosophy makes no sense. Todays physicians are encouraged to be well-rounded, socially aware, and empathetic. While scientific proficiency is vital for physicians, it should not come at the expense of forgetting that todays physicians treat people, not their symptoms.
“Social Justice and Educating Our Physicians,” by Robert McLean, Michael Malloy, et. al., September 18, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/social-justice-and-educating-our-physicians-11568830783
“Take Two Aspirin and Call Me by My Pronouns,” by Stanley Goldfarb, September 12, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/take-two-aspirin-and-call-me-by-my-pronouns-11568325291?mod=article_inline
“Medical Schools Are Pushed to Train Doctors for Climate Change,” by Brianna Abbott, August 7, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/medical-schools-are-pushed-to-train-doctors-for-climate-change-11565170205