Just 6 months ago, I was interviewing at medical schools, and there was an interesting lack of trend in opinions about curriculums: what pre-meds are interested in has no correlation to what medical students are interested in. But it’s the pre-meds with multiple acceptances who make the decisions (who wants to go to a school where you learn absolutely nothing pathological, and see no patients, until 2nd year? I mean, are we paying $70,000 to feel like doctors or biochem grad students, amirite?), so there seems to be an epidemic of a “new curriculum!” at schools, I bet at least partially to accommodate this. (No, I have no evidence. But I don’t think you can go ever wrong in assuming that money is at the bottom of most major decisions.)
Despite the fact that I actually really like these new curriculums (.. curriculi?), the running joke on the interview trail is how the Dean at every single school proudly announces their “unique new curriculum” which features “early patient contact – from the first week!” (UVa proudly announced “starting on day 1 of orientation!”, which I think means they win. Unless there’s another med school that has patients present on move-in day.) and “integrating pathology with normal physiology”. (Except for you, UPenn. Way to stubbornly keep it old school.) I mean, everybody does this now.
But while early clinical classes about doctor-patient relations sound AWESOME to your average pre-med, they sound ridiculous to medical students – which always struck me as weird, seeing as how one turns into the other. But now that I’m actually here, I’m beginning to see what the med students I’ve talked to are getting at: In the first year, patient contact is largely worthless – because we know nothing. They weren’t just saying, “Oh, we know a little medicine, but we’re not real doctors so this is worthless.” No. First years know NOTHING. I get it now. (Yes, it’s true that the humanistic side of medicine is just as important – but I’d argue that 1st year medical students don’t need help establishing empathy with patients. We are idealistic, empathetic, and wide-eyed. It’s knowing the scientific side of medicine and and being paid to concentrate on it that makes empathizing sometimes hard. I mean, right now, I couldn’t ignore the patient and treat the symptoms if I wanted to.)
Finally, a moment I witnessed that accurately encapsulated why I’m not sold on this:Patient: Do you think the headaches have anything to do with my stomach ache? MS1: Um, maybe. The doctor will be here any minute now. I’m just here to get experience. Patient: Well, do you think it’s diverticulitis? My sister has diverticulitis. MS1: … diver-what? Patient: … MS1: Um.. was that emotionally difficult, dealing with your sister’s div… illness?
This class is referred to occasionally as the “So, You’re All Socially Incompetent!” class, which I think is about right. I’m sure it will be really helpful once we start knowing things, but right now, any class that features lectures on eye-contact and how to relate to people is bound to be – well, “waste of time” seems awful judgemental – so I’m going to go with “not particularly ‘high-yield’.”
To be fair, it does beat memorizing the ligaments of the talocrural joint. Hard to argue about that.