AMA: Ensuring medical education best prepares future physicians

A guest column by the American Medical Association, exclusive to

by J. James Rohack, MD

AMA: Ensuring medical education best prepares future physicians This year marks the 100th anniversary of the landmark Flexner Report that standardized medical education in North America. Now, during this historic time of health system change, medical education reforms on the scale of those enacted a century ago are needed to achieve a sustainable 21st-century. Preparing the next generation of physicians to best meet the health care needs of America is a critical challenge that the medical community is rising to meet.

Next week in Washington D.C., the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) will convene a historic conference “New Horizons in Medical Education: A Second Century of Achievement” to plan the future of medical education.

Representatives from every U.S. and Canadian medical school and hundreds of leaders in the medical education field including, physicians, medical students and residents will discuss and debate core issues in medical education to ensure that future physicians are best prepared to meet the health care needs of the 21st century patient. This conference will help the medical community create a roadmap for educating future generations of physicians, with recommendations based on the meeting discussion released later this year.

A key area of discussion at the conference will be how medical education can better prepare medical students to handle the challenges of real-life medical practice. Medical education needs to align more closely with the current practice of medicine and also prepare students for upcoming changes in the health care system.

Conference participants will also discuss how to meet the current and projected health care needs of America. By 2025, about 159,000 more physicians will be needed to care for the growing population, particularly in medical specialties such as primary care, geriatrics, and general surgery, and in underserved rural and inner-city areas of the country. The conference will look at how to make this a reality, including incentives for physicians to practice in needed areas.

Health information technology (IT), such as electronic prescribing and electronic medical records, will be discussed due to its great promise for improving patient safety and the quality of care in the practice of medicine. Medical education must prepare future physicians to make full use of the new opportunities provided by health IT tools. Technology can also support new methods of learning, like medical simulation, to help students at all levels hone their skills in a realistic environment.

These are three of the core areas under discussion and other topics include, better aligning the medical education continuum, new methods to finance medical education, researching best practices, and the importance of social accountability and faculty leadership.

The recommendations from the conference will be influenced by the realities of medical practice today as well as coming changes. With historic participation and buy-in from all U.S. medical schools, medical education can better prepare future physicians to provide high-quality patient care and thrive in our health care system.

The conference agenda includes key speeches that can be heard online shortly after at

J. James Rohack is immediate past president of the American Medical Association.

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  • Dr. Mary Johnson

    If only:

    A key area of discussion will be how -the AMA- can better assist doctors NOW in handling the challenges of real-life medical practice. The -AMA_needs to align itself more closely with the current rank & file practice of medicine, and also assist physicians in dealing with upcoming changes in the health care system (that many/most physicians didn’t really want).

  • Michael F. Mirochna, MD

    The Flexner report started the beginning of something. I’m not sure a lot of it was good. We talk about POEMs (patient orientated evidence that matters) like they are so novel. We should do things that have clinical benefit that patients experience and care about, yet the majority of our medical education is not about those things. In order to practice true EBM, we really need to know statistics inside and out, otherwise, its the blind leading the “chosen few.” We get little to no musculoskeletal medicine, yet that is a common office visit complaint. Our offices are full of chronic disease that requires behavior change and get no training in motivational interviewing. I think a majority of our medical education is a sum of parts that are not greater than or even equal to the whole. There is so much we learn that, maybe its what makes us a doctor vs any other “provider, but is so far from helping us heal patients.

  • Steven Reznick MD FACP

    Since none of us actually know how medicine will be practiced as the new health care reform gets implemented , its hard to imagine how we can ask medical schools to plan for the future. What is clear to me is that the fund of knowledge including technology and evaluation of data is far more extensive. I am not certain four years is the optimal amount of time for a medical school education. Somehow physician to physican and physician – patient communication must improve. The technology must be used to enhance this communication not replace it or substitute for it.
    We need to address the loss of female physicians from the workforce in large numbers ten years after completing their training. We either figure out a way to keep experienced women in practice or we need to adjust the number of women in medical school classes so we can meet the physician manpower needs of the future.
    I believe we need to more completely train our students with regard to what everyone does. Doing gram stains on sputum, making hematological blood slides and reading them, plating and reading bacetriologic cultures are lost arts that one needs to know if they are to appreciate how disease is spread , diagnosed, and effectively treated. We additionally could use more training in areas you are not specializing in so that you understand the problems and nuances of your colleagues specialty in your dealings with mutual patients.
    I unfortunately believe that technology, on line fill out history forms and telemedicine along with nurse practtioner run clinics in the mall will be used to substitute for physician patient longitudinal care because it is cheaper. I hope not but since health care reform is being led by big business, politicians, insurance companies and pharmaceutical houses there is little likelihood that future doctors or current doctors will get much input

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