MAYWOOD, Ill. – The world of medicine is rapidly changing. In less than 100 years the way medicine is practiced and administered has been transformed with the introduction of sanitation measures, pharmaceuticals and technology advances that are ever-evolving. Not only have technologies and medications surpassed expectations, but the physician/patient relationship also has changed, and we are on the cusp of revamping our entire health care system. With so much in flux what can we expect for the future of medicine in the United States and how are we preparing the physicians of the future to handle what lies ahead?
“The writing already is on the wall for major changes in medical education and training,” said Aaron Michelfelder, MD, chair of the curriculum committee and associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine (SSOM).
According to Michelfelder one of the avenues of change will be a complete split for non-surgical specialties between inpatient and outpatient. A doctor will either work with patients in a hospital setting or outpatient setting.
Rarely will he or she do both. He also believes that there will be even more specialties and sub-specialties to handle new technologies, findings and innovations.
Specifically, he sees the field of genetics as a major player in the future. Medicine is becoming extremely personalized. The more that is understood about genes, the more a physician can tailor a person’s treatment to his or her genetic code. This is becoming so vital that the genetics course, which used to be completed in the first-year of medical school, has been expanded and incorporated into the curriculum over all four years at SSOM.
“A curriculum in genetics is so important to the future of medicine. As it continues to become a major player in the diagnosis and treating of patients it is integral to ensuring our medical students are prepared when they start to practice medicine after their years as residents and possibly as fellows,” said Michelfelder.
Another crucial component of training the doctor of the future is increasing his or her number of clinical experiences.
At SSOM by the second month of medical school students already have clinical experience including understanding how to take a normal medical history and at the end of the year they will have had over 15 encounters with standardized patients, real people. At the end of the second year they’ve had clinical experience in all medical specialties.
“Things move fast. What students have experienced by the end of second year, 10 years ago medical students would’ve been doing at the end of their third-year,” said Michelfelder. “Though this is exciting it creates a difficult situation as well. Medical students are already carrying heavy loads; so how do you continue to offer the basic science courses needed as cornerstones to medical education while allowing more time for procedures, clinical experiences, exposure to technology advancements and information on the ‘business of doctoring?’”
Even Michelfelder’s specialty, family medicine, is seeing vast changes as family medicine doctors are being positioned to be experts in global and public health.
“Many programs, including SSOM, are offering public health degrees and global experience to prepare students for what most likely will be asked of them in their future practices,” said Michelfelder.
Amidst all the changes Michelfelder warns that we must not lose sight of what is most important: the patient.
“The patient/physician relationship is so imperative and with all the additional responsibilities that are heaped on doctors, this could be one of the things we lose. We need to ensure that this remains a priority and teach its importance to the next generation of doctors,” said Michelfelder.
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Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine is located in a state-of-the-art educational facility on the campus of Loyola University Medical Center, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood. The school, which provides instruction to 520 medical students, has been in the vanguard of institutions that have created new, active learning curricula to help students meet the challenges of 21st century health care. An estimated 8,000 to 9,000 students compete each year for 130 openings in the Stritch medical school’s first-year class. In addition to the more than 500 students, Loyola’s medical educational programs provide instruction and training to an estimated 400 residents and 100 fellows.