Teaching Appropriate Utilization in Medical School

To some extent appropriate utilization can be taught to senior medical students by committed physicians who are knowledgeable about the negative consequences of not avoiding avoidable care. Included among likely instructors would be primary care physicians, internists (including medical subspecialists), pediatricians, surgeons and radiologists.

A six week curriculum with both didactic lectures and case presentations could form the substrate for the course. But there would have to be involvement from other knowledgeable individuals in each medical school who would educate the students about the economic, sociological and public health issues intrinsic to the topic.

Where could the time be found? The fourth year of medical school is in many ways a wasteland, (pun intended). It is in large measure a waste of time with allotments of weeks to meaningless requirements often merely to allocate treasured hours to satisfy the special desires of powerful actors who can influence curriculum assignments. It is a waste of money – both for the hours spent without a sound education focus and most specifically for the long and costly interview process incurred by students as they seek internship and residency positions.

Why should a student travel around the country on his or her dime to interview at the home site of a prospective training site in accordance with schedules which serve the convenience of Program Directors? And these odysseys occur predominantly in December and January when travel is most difficult.

Why not change the process? Program Directors could evaluate the applicant without a visit to the medical center. For example, law school is also a three year commitment

(like many residencies). Site visits to them are not mandatory, let alone necessary. In truth, applicants to medical training programs for the most part are more interested in the environs of the hospital, (the neighborhood and the city) than the structural character of the hospital or its amenities. Such information can be gleaned by web site displays and other material most programs now readily provide.

Or for small and moderate sized internships and residencies, interviews could be held at one or two locations nationally so that all applicants and interviewers come together for one week or so allowing for multiple interactions in a short time. These visits are secured by lower cost and lessened time away for both students and Program Directors than by customary visits at the behest and convenience of potential hirers. Podiatry does this now. Why can’t residency programs in medical specialties do it as well?

The time freed up in December and January can then be made to accommodate an uninterrupted course of study at the home base. The curriculum could be focused and sustained, devoted to the important mission of educating students about the specifics of appropriate rather than excessive care which is too often a product of the sensibilities of contemporary American medical graduates.

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