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Why Patients Should Care About Medical Education

Posted Jul 20 2009 9:23am
As I work diligently on the first lecture of my career, an interactive 4 hour conversation about personal leadership and emotional intelligence, I think about what an honour it is to have the opportunity to teach our country’s next generation of physicians.

Before I started medical school I knew I wanted to make a difference in the lives of Canadians. After much thought and deliberation, I decided early in my medical school career that medical education was the way I wanted to contribute to health care in Canada. I became the VP of Education at the University of Toronto and during my tenure I had the privilege of representing my colleagues in a number of initiatives which have fundamentally changed undergraduate medical education at U of T – and arguably the rest of Canada. Medical education forms the foundation upon which the nation’s doctors are created. Patients may be the vanguards of the next revolution in “med ed.”

I see a lot of patient advocates lobbying for electronic medical records and patient rights. While these are important causes, I believe medical education is an area of the health care system these groups should consider more closely. Patients are at the center of all health care endeavors, yet they have a rather passive engagement with the systems and institutions responsible for producing their doctors.

I would argue that, especially in a single payer, public system like Canada, patients have a right to be more actively involved in the training of physicians. To me this is made clearer when one reads Daniel Pink’s “ A Whole New Mind.” Daniel points out that with the rise of Google and ubiquitous medical information the role of the doctor is changing “from the omniscient purveyor of solutions to empathic advisor on options.” As technology advances, medicine will be less about knowing lots of stuff and more about the interaction between doctor and patient. How do we teach students to be empathic? I’m trying to do my part with a lecture on emotional intelligence. There may also be a role for patients in the training of future doctors. When I reflect on the past two years of medical school, I have seen how education can make a difference. I would love to chat more or work with patient groups interesting in medical education.

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