Should Doctors Be More Like Activists?

February 16, 2017
Russell Schaffer

Top news for aspiring doctors.

Two doctors argue that medicine needs more social activists.

While some doctors argue that activism is part of the job, the American Medical Association promotes innovation in training and an Arkansas medical school looks to start teens early on their path to a career in medicine. Here’s the latest in pre-med news.

Doctors as agents of change

Doctors—as opposed to lawyers, for example—have a certain reputation for working with their heads down to cure diseases and treat patients. Lawyers, as you no doubt have seen as of late, are generally more comfortable with an activist role, taking to the streets to fight for what they believe in. Some think doctors should take this approach too—or that they should at least make their voices heard, especially when it comes to public health issues and issues of social justice.

“Healing patients bodies and minds is noble and fulfilling work. But doctors have the opportunity to help heal the ills of society as well,” say two doctors who want to see their colleagues promote social activism. “Training programs that give young physicians tools to advocate for such changes will be good for them, and for all Americans.” (STAT)

Training medical students for the real world

The American Medical Association, the national group that represents thousands of doctors across the United States, recently published a study focusing on ways medical schools should rethink their curriculum and citing approaches medical schools are already taking to innovate. Among recent changes:

  • Harvard Medical School now offer a 14-month pre-clerkship program focusing on on the core knowledge that doctors will need if they work in hospitals. Biweekly, medical students are required to work in a primary care setting, an area of medicine that desperately needs more doctors.
  • The Medical College of Wisconsin has created two new medical school campuses in more rural parts of the state to encourage aspiring doctors to study and work there after graduation. Areas like these are especially underserved, and initiatives like this are most welcome.
  • The University of California, Irvine School of Medicine offers a course that focuses on new trends in health care technology and social media. (AMA Wire)

Reaching the next generation of doctors

The NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University in rural Jonesboro wants to get potential doctors interested in medicine at an early age. And a new initiative designed to talk to high school students about careers in medicine is about to launch with the purpose of accomplishing this goal.

“The mission of this medical school has been to train physicians in Arkansas for Arkansas, but really that is only one cog in the wheel, so to speak,” said Dr. Shane Speights. “We’ve got a lot of programs we are going to implement that will actually churn excitement and engagement from high school students to college students and even down into elementary school students, to get interested in healthcare fields and kind of generate interest in science.”

The school is also going to a launch mini-medical school day camp this summer to encourage teenagers to look into this exciting field. (ABC/NBC – Jonesboro, AR)

Medical school spending called into question

As faithful readers of the Med School Pulse will recall, we’ve reported on the University of Texas’ Dell Medical School, which just opened this year. While it’s a very exciting event and will hopefully alleviate the doctor shortage in this part of the state, some activists are claiming that the administration is incorrectly spending money on administration and educational expenses instead of indigent care.

The medical school is pushing back hard though. “The school strives in everything it does—and especially in its use of public money—to provide a return on the investment of Travis County voters and meet Central Health’s requirements to help mold a model healthy community,” says Clay Johnston, the medical school’s dean. “The people of Travis County voted to fund a medical school. We are delivering that medical school on time and already with substantial community benefits, and we’re still in the earliest years.” (The Austin American-Statesman)

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Russell Schaffer

Russell Schaffer Russell Schaffer is Kaplan Test Prep's senior communications manager. Russell is responsible for helping lead our external media relations efforts, including speaking with reporters and bloggers on a regular basis about Kaplan's proprietary research and products. Russell also helps craft the surveys we regularly administer of students, advisers​,​ and admissions officers. The data collected helps guide the hundreds of thousands of students and parents Kaplan works with every year by giving them accurate and up-to-date information ​about​ the landscape. Russell is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, where he received his BA in political science and MA in communications.

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