Hands-on Training for Doctors

June 14, 1992

An acquaintance of Donald E. Wilson recalls that the dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine once almost quit medical school "because it was so divorced from what he wanted to do, which was to help people."

The aspiring young doctor found the standard curriculum for physicians so preoccupied with science courses, lab work and rote memorization that the concern for patients as people that had led him to choose medicine as a vocation was virtually ignored. He also came to the conclusion that the profession properly ought to be regarded as an art as well as a science.

Fortunately for the University of Maryland, Dr. Wilson decided to continue his studies - and to work toward changing the way medical students are trained to better reflect the real-life work of physicians. As the medical school dean, he is finally in a position to put those ideas into practice: developing innovative, creative approaches to medical education, research and patient care.

Dean Wilson is not alone in his effort. Medical schools across the country are recognizing that while good science is the foundation of a modem medical education, schools can't afford to neglect other important aspects of a physician's training, particularly the doctor-patient relationship.

At the Johns Hopkins medical school, for example, Dean Michael Johns has introduced wide-ranging reforms intended to better integrate the teaching of basic science with modern clinical practice. Hopkins, which established the basic pattern of scientific medical education in this country at the turn of the century, is one of the world's leading medical research institutions. Its graduates rank among the country's most respected medical practitioners in part because of the thorough grounding they receive in the scientific approach to the treatment of illness and disease.

Yet Dr. Johns believes that even more must be done. The explosion of medical knowledge over the last 100 years has meant that schools like Hopkins must train their graduates to be life-long learners able to keep up with continuous, rapid change in their fields. The school will introduce new elements in the curriculum that emphasize hands-on experience and contact with patients as well as courses in such topics as medical ethics and the role of the physician in modem society.

Medical education is undergoing an important transformation that aims to build on the excellent foundation of scientific medicine while putting new emphasis on preparing doctors to practice in the real world. Marylanders can take pride that two of the state's most venerable institutions, the University of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University, are recognized leaders in the forefront of these exciting developments.

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