Dr. John Raymond, CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, thinks there is an critical element sorely missing in the training of aspiring physicians: compassion.
Since there is an assumption that all doctors are inherently compassionate and caring individuals, traditional medical education doesn’t outright address its importance in patient care, he argued.
But recently compassion seems to be getting lost as doctors face more administrative burdens and an increased emphasis on clinical productivity. “These pressures can dehumanize medicine,” he said.
Through the National Transformation Network, which officially launched in June, the schools will work together to develop a curriculum focused on three components: character, competence and caring. The network was established with the help of a $37.8 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation, a not-for-profit that funds educational initiatives. The other participating schools include the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, UCSF School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.
Raymond quickly acknowledged that clinical competence isn’t lacking in medical education, emphasizing that medical schools do an excellent job of equipping future doctors with the scientific background and clinical skills needed to treat patients. What’s lacking is making sure aspiring doctors have the right intentions and mindset to care for the nation’s vulnerable or sick.
The lack of focus on these qualities during medical school ultimately hinders efforts in the healthcare industry overall to provide care that is more patient-centered. “We need to make (medical school) feel more real and more directly related to the patient,” Raymond said.
How exactly the National Transformation Network will change curriculums is still being worked out, but there will be a strong emphasis on ensuring students appreciate and understand the importance of compassion to patients, Raymond said. This will likely take the form of more one-on-one time with patients and an emphasis on personal wellness and burnout, which plagues a majority of physicians today.
At the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, slated to open in 2019, students will be asked to come up with solutions to a variety of complex health issues such as low immunization rates or falls in the inpatient setting.
“Part of what we have to do is show medical students how to be leaders of change,” said Dr. Edward Ellison, board member of the school and co-CEO of the Permanente Federation, a Kaiser subsidiary connected to its medical groups.
The students will also benefit from the school’s affiliation with Kaiser Permanente, the not-for-profit health system based in Oakland, Calif., Ellison said. Students are expected to shadow doctors, work in the more than 30 safety-net clinics that are part of the Kaiser system, and visit patients in their homes after discharge.
Kaiser’s move to open a medical school represents a growing trend in medical education. Health systems are increasingly working with their affiliate medical schools to brainstorm how students should be trained, said Leah Gassett, a principal at ECG Management Consultants with an expertise in medical education.
“Health systems are recognizing they would like a seat at the table so the graduates are prepared to be effective clinical leaders of their systems,” she said.
But Ellison said Kaiser’s foremost goal wasn’t to foster a pipeline of future doctors to work at the system—though they expect some students to stay at Kaiser to pursue their residency. Instead, the main driver was a desire to be part of the changes happening in medical education.
“We want to contribute to the broader evolution of medical education,” he said. “We see this as a way to learn and share outside our system.”