Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Who is the leading figure in British medical education today?

Prior to heading to med school, if asked which person would feature most often in the early stages of British medical education I would probably have guessed at Galen, or possibly the PM or health minister, or perhaps a local medical hero. Here in Australia, I would have plumped for Victor Chang or Fred Hollows. Most other laypeople would probably give a similar response and name someone who made a significant contribution to the progress of medicine, someone who will control your future progress, or someone inspiring.

Following the Dean's ten minute introduction on Day 1 at my UK med school, the next academic to speak spent most of his allotted time standing in front of a full-screen picture of a bearded and bespectacled GP from northern England. This motif continued throughout my time there: the presence of Harold Shipman was never away from an ethics or "professional behaviours" lecture either implicitly, or indeed explicitly via a full screen picture and another re-telling of his terrible story. A high-level read around the subject of Modernising Medical Careers now reveals how often his example is invoked by those who set the educational agenda.

So far here in Australia the medical role (or anti-role) models encountered have conformed to my expectations. Whether it is because the medical school is saving the pleasures of "new" professionalism for a later date, whether they do not think that Shipman was such a problem, or whether they did not experience Shipman first hand and so do not acknowledge potential poisons in the Australian mud is hard to say.

There's a lot in the MMC approach to education which is long overdue and will, I think, improve the quality of med school product. However, I must say that it is refreshing to see the medical students being allowed to be inspired by medical practice before being clobbered repeatedly by the examples of practice gone awry.

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