Wider problems for medical schools

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It was both heartwarming and dumbfounding to read the Nov. 10 Health and Science article "Med schools offer doses of new reality."

I applaud medical schools for rediscovering compassion, patient-centered medicine, physician-patient communication and preventive medicine. Efforts to "modernize" medical education are always welcome. But when I attended medical school, these "innovations" were an inherent part of my education and, I thought, standard for the practice of medicine. Yes, they are important, but much more critical problems require our immediate attention: the exorbitant cost of medical education and the resulting debt, which influence what, how and where doctors practice; the insufficient supply of doctors; and the primary-care crisis. If you think these problems are serious now, wait until we finally achieve universal health care.

Through a kind of domino effect, these three issues have a major impact on the health of the nation and its health-care system. They are also beyond the scope of individual medical schools and must be dealt with as part of the comprehensive reform that is desperately needed if we are to have high-quality health care at a reasonable cost.

Jan Marc Orenstein, Washington

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