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MANUSCRIPT: Reforming Premedical Education — Out with the Old, in with the New

The most consistent and strident calls for medical education reform over the past century have focused on premedical preparation. The first attempt at standardizing requirements for medical school admission came in 1904 from the American Medical Association’s Council on Medical Education. In 1910, Abraham Flexner recommended requiring biology, chemistry, botany, and physics, and by 1930, today’s premedical science preparation — biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics — was firmly established. But criticism began as early as 1929, and in 1939 the Association of American Medical Colleges weighed in.1
Recent years have seen many calls for enhancing, overhauling, or abolishing the traditional premed requirements.1-3 Critics argue that the pace of scientific discovery and its clinical application have outstripped the requirements; that information technology has made memorizing vast amounts of content unnecessary; that the requirements lack clinical, scientific, and social relevance; that they’re used to cull the herd of talented aspiring physicians; that they disadvantage minority and female students; that they crowd out studies of bioethics, social justice, and health policy; and that rigidly structured premedical and medical school curricula hinder students from becoming self-directed lifelong learners.1-4 Furthermore, the current model has perpetuated “premed syndrome,” a culture of aggressive competition for grades that conflicts with the precepts of medical professionalism: academic and intellectual rigor, creative thinking, collaboration, and social conscience.2
Various solutions have been proposed, but little substantive change has occurred. Universities are neither equipped nor motivated to create new courses for medical school preparation. They have limited resources, siloed departments, educational inertia, and faculty with ingrained teaching habits.3

via Reforming Premedical Education — Out with the Old, in with the New — NEJM.

Written by

Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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