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Education in the Forefront at P&S

Dr. Gerald Fischbach
Dr. Gerald Fischbach
Education is a main concern at P&S. Over the years, the demands of research and patient care have often challenged this priority at academic medical centers, but P&S places a strong premium on teaching and learning at all levels; the goal here is to continue to advance education by identifying new curricula and by reemphasizing the scientific basis of medicine with new methodologies and content essential for this age of informatics and genetic medicine. P&S is also emphasizing humanism in medicine as well as science and plans to re-emphasize teaching by training, recognizing and rewarding superb teachers.

Marilyn Castaldi, Chief Communications Officer, recently spoke with Gerald Fischbach, M.D., executive vice president and dean, about education at P&S.

What distinguishes the College of Physicians & Surgeons?

The most striking thing about our school is the students themselves – the quality of their intellect, their diverse interests, their enormous energy. The talents of our students, combined with the talents and dedication of our faculty, make for a truly unique experience at P&S. Our challenge is to continue to meld the abilities all these gifted individuals have to offer as we rethink our goals for medical education in 2005 and the coming years.

How do you expect the P&S curriculum to change?

One way I think the curriculum will change is that there will be increasing recognition of the need to accommodate the diversity of our students' interests by creating distinct tracks within the medical school curriculum. We already have the M.D./Ph.D. degree. Other special tracks we may need to consider include community health and public service (with more of a primary care orientation); global public health; biomedical science; and a medical-administration track.

We will also need to make room in the curriculum for information sciences. We will have to recognize the increasingly important role of medical genetics and the bioethical issues that medical advances are raising. Moving forward, both medical genetics and bioethics will demand an increasing share of our attention as clinicians and researchers – therefore, they must also gain space in our curriculum.

What will distinguish students as P&S-trained physicians?

We must challenge our seasoned faculty and talented students to help us answer that question. This demands great effort in defining the core elements of medical education that our students should receive.

The first step will be the appointment of a Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education. This individual will have to have a breadth of knowledge and interests to match the wide-ranging needs of our students. The person must embrace diversity and be willing to engage our other schools to develop exciting new integrated training programs.

What are some of the challenges P&S faces?

We face many of the traditional problems in medical education: finding adequate time and space in the curriculum. Rather than cram new segments into the already crowded curriculum, or make wholesale change, we need to assess and restructure strategically.

We need to be prepared to make dynamic change. And we will need to invest in the process of curriculum reform, over the course of about two years. A task force will be formed, with as many as 30 participants, both faculty and students. And we will explore availability of grant support in the process.

What are the goals for the coming years?

The goals for medical education, in general, are constantly evolving to meet the times. They are not the same today as they were in 1908 when the original medical school curricula were defined, or even the same as 20 years ago or a decade ago. So much has changed in how we need to prepare our students for their role as physicians in the early 21st century – technology; professionalism; knowledge of disease mechanisms; the way we treat both chronic and acute disorders; and, of course, social factors, such as the impact of the Web and increasing globalization. All of these factors are, and will continue, exerting great influence on medical education.