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Before two trains collide, what is the best course of action?

University of Michigan Health System

U-M vice president discusses challenges in medical education

BOSTON, Mass. - Within a context he calls the 'train-wreck' between society's expectations and demands on the field of medicine, and the resistance of payers to cover healthcare expenses, Gilbert S. Omenn, M.D., Ph.D., U-M executive vice president for medical affairs, is providing insight today into what the U-M Medical School is doing to address the challenges in medical education, given the reality of mounting clinical and economic pressures individual physicians must face in the 21st century. Key, he says, is improving the teaching in medical education.

Omenn is presenting the UMHS perspective on 21st century challenges to medical education at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held here on February 15 - 18.

With its three-part mission for excellence in clinical care, research and education, the U-M Medical School is as innovative in medical education as it is in research and clinical care. For example, Omenn says, U-M is in the fourth year of a program called Innovations in Medical Education. For each annual cohort, 12 faculty are selected from many competitors for a year of mentored individual and collective activities aimed at developing and implementing a significant advance in pre-clinical or clinical education of medical students and in evaluation of these programs.

Faculty from the Department of Medical Education lead the instructional component of this program. Their research has documented markedly increased productivity in publication and in teaching effectiveness following participation in this program.

"Also, emergency medicine faculty members are pioneering a virtual advisers program," Omenn says.

The program uses the internet as an access-equalizer so that career advising for medical students and residents is enhanced through virtual interactions and mentoring sessions with leaders in the field.

Problem-based learning modules are being re-tooled. According to Omenn, these learning modules are most relevant when faculty go beyond simply testing students' ability to identify and list patient problems. Are students understanding the problems' interdependent relationships? Are they able to rank order these problems relative to the individual patient's unique situation? U-M provides interactive instruction that helps challenge students to test clinical hypotheses and organize the available or desired information much better.

Another U-M teaching innovation has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution Collection of Innovations in Technology. It is an elaborately plumbed and sensored manikin for training of emergency responses to multiple organ trauma and shock. This educational innovation was a collaboration between the U-M College of Engineering and the U-M Department of Surgery Trauma Unit. Its development and implementation has opened multiple avenues of training: airway intubation, resuscitation, evaluation of unconscious patients, and vascular access. Training for many other procedures can be incorporated into student, resident, and CME programs, just as Boeing trains pilots on simulators.

Physicians are challenged as never before to improve clinical outcomes in the most cost-effective way. Together with broadly directed research and evidence-based patient-centered care, medical education can help equip U-M physicians with the tools they need to face many of the challenges the 21st century will present.


Mary Beth Reilly,
734-764-2220 or 647-5014
Sally Pobojewski, c/o AAAS Newsroom

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