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Medical Education - The Making Of A Physician

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesGuide to Medical & Dental SchoolsMedical Education - Evolution Of The Medical Curriculum, The Traditional Curriculum, The Curriculum In Transition, The New Medical School Curricula


The premedical and medical school preparation and training intervals usually extend over an eight-year period. During this time, the student is, for the most part, preoccupied with coursework and then clinical training. The concerns are essentially with the mechanics of climbing from one rung to the next on the ladder of professional status. Little time is thus available to reflect upon the nature of the nonacademic aspects of medical education and medical practice, although these may be subtly realized as one journeys along the educational route. By enunciating them at this point and bringing them to the attention of prospective physicians, the metamorphosis from layperson to healer may be better understood and appreciated.

Two fundamental interpersonal characteristics must be understood to develop a proper perspective about the practice of medicine.

Physician-Patient Relationship

The basic strength of medicine has been, and undoubtedly will remain, the highly personalized one-to-one relationship between the patient and the physician. It involves establishing and maintaining a bond of trust and faith between an individual in pain and the doctor selected to diagnose and cure, or at least alleviate, the suffering. The interaction between these two human beings seeking a common goal is the cornerstone of the practice of medicine. Maintaining this unique interpersonal bond between patient and doctor, even if other members of the health team are interposed in the diagnostic and therapeutic phases, is one of the most essential elements of medical practice.

Physician-Patient Responsibility

The second key element in the care of, as well as in caring about, the patient is providing appropriate care. The trust placed in the hands of a physician needs to be reciprocated by his or her genuine concern for the patient. This involves the proper application of both the science and the art of medicine so that one achieves the goal of the maintenance of health, or easing of pain.

To meet one's responsibilities as a physician involves absorbing and assimilating a sound basis in human biology and acquiring and maintaining a high level of clinical expertise. Only a sound scientific basis for critical evaluation will enable the physician to incorporate or reject various items in the large volume of data obtained during the course of a patient's “workup” and thereby arrive at an appropriate diagnosis.

A better relationship may be facilitated if one has a view of what the patient seeks in a physician. A survey has shown that priority is given to: (1) being knowledgeable, (2) being competent, (3) answering questions honestly and completely, (4) providing clear explanations to medical problems, (5) making sure that patients understand what they have been told, (6) spending adequate time with them, and (7) demonstrating a genuine interest in the patient's health and welfare.

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