Dec 2, 2013

Panel Proposes Medical Education Overhaul

National Blue Ribbon Commission Proposes Overhaul of Medical Education

A national panel of osteopathic medical experts recently released a report detailing recommendations for an overhaul of medical education that could proactively address the nation’s imminent physician shortage.

I was honored to serve as co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission for the Advancement of Osteopathic Medical Education (BRC). The 24-member commission was formed in response to the nation’s need for a robust primary care physician workforce by envisioning a new model for medical education that will better prepare osteopathic physicians for success in today’s health-care environment.

Read more about the BRC and its report in the November issue of Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal of health policy and research. 

The Commission made three key recommendations to reform medical education and to potentially mitigate this shortage. These recommendations include:
  • Increasing clinical experience for medical students early in medical school
  • Advancing students from medical school to residency, and residency training to practice, based on readiness rather than years of study
  • Providing a stronger focus on primary care and preparedness to function in the modern health-care system

In addition to reducing the shortage of primary care physicians, particularly in underserved areas, we believe these recommendations will also help decrease the debt burden of our medical students. While these changes would represent both a disruptive innovation in how we educate medical students and a challenge to our current system of medical education, we believe they are necessary to educate physicians who are ready to address the health-care needs of the 21st century.

Physician shortages already affect patients, particularly in underserved urban and rural areas. From 2000 to 2010, there was a 30 percent decrease in the number of medical school graduates entering primary care practice.

Today, 60 percent of doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.s) practice primary care, and many practice in underserved urban and rural areas. The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine also announced an 11 percent increase in new enrollment at the nation’s osteopathic medical schools.

KCUMB is experiencing a 14 percent increase as compared to last year, and our graduates traditionally lean toward primary care specialties. In Missouri, 72 percent of our graduates practice in primary care and 40 percent serve in rural and underserved areas of the state.

But tradition may not be enough. To ensure that new medical students are interested in primary care and service in rural areas, we must take a hard look at our medical education system and identify ways to prepare current medical students to meet the challenges of the future.