Building better doctors

While the NYT trash-talks legal education, medical schools are revising the MCAT to “reward candidates who have read broadly in the liberal arts and can think analytically.”  This is a change.

This new focus aims to encourage aspiring physicians to come to medical school having considered what makes us human, how we interact with other human beings, and how human behaviors have shaped civilizations and society.

That’s from the Dean of the Harvard Medical School, writing in NEJM.

The MCAT revision complements efforts by some medical schools to reserve a portion of their classes for humanities students who lacked traditional pre-med education as undergrads.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but stellar success as a pre-med may not correlate perfectly with the social skills needed to be an excellent primary care doctor.

One program, the Mt. Sinai Humanities and Medicine Program, has reported encouraging results:

Results: There were no statistically significant differences between the groups in clerkship honors other than psychiatry (HuMed students outperformed their peers, P < .0001) or in commencement distinctions or honors. Although HuMed students were significantly more likely to secure a scholarly-year mentored project (P = .001), there was no difference in graduating with distinction in research (P = .281). HuMed students were more likely to have lower United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 scores (221 ± 20 versus 227 ± 19, P = .0039) and to take a nonscholarly leave of absence (P = .0001). There was a trend among HuMed students toward residencies in primary care and psychiatry and away from surgical subspecialties and anesthesiology.

Conclusions: Students without the traditional premedical preparation performed at a level equivalent to their premedical classmates.

Muller D, Kase N. Challenging traditional premedical requirements as predictors of success in medical school:  the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Humanities and Medicine Program.  Academic Med 2010;85:1378-1383.

In law schools, the USNews ranking system generally punishes experimentation like this.

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