“Medicine is an ever-changing science” goes the familiar message on the opening page of most medical textbooks. Judging by the rapid pace at which textbooks expand, you have to wonder whether that would be a good enough reason to abandon the written word for good. Lateral epicondylitis used to be learnt through reading and repetition; with new textbooks you have the added quality of experiencing the syndrome’s excruciating symptoms first hand. Never before did the list of symptoms seem so straightforward to memorise.
It is the baby boom period of medicine. Genomic markers mushroom. Metabolic pathways proliferate. Diseases’ interconnections appear. Syndrome subtypes are created. Laboratory tests multiply. The scientific revolution is in full flow. Then, a multifaceted view of medicine emerges. And we all recognise the final victim in this tale: the keen medical student. Even strenuous endeavours of the highest magnitude cannot comprehensively cover pharmacology, nor will they will lead to an absolute mastery of that infinite discipline. We may be jealous of the smaller amounts of information medical students needed to absorb to graduate in the early 20th century. On the other hand, students now have the benefit of a sophisticated network, with a plethora of information just waiting for us to access – the internet with its millions of articles, books, and atlases, a database produced by generations through hard work and research.
Medicine has taken a step forward; but have medical students changed accordingly? Are we made of the same material as our predecessors? The criteria by which candidates are evaluated remain pretty much the same. The ability to remember details and problem solving under pressure are the most crucial features for potential medical students. This made sense decades ago, but with the thinking of modern medicine and the continually changing work environment, isn’t it time to once again determine the traits and abilities that the ideal medical student should possess?
With today’s complex protocols and procedures, necessarily performed by a group of medical staff, cooperation, more than ever before, turns out to be a key factor. Assessment of workgroup abilities should be an essential selection criterion for medical students nowadays. Working through enormous amounts of material in a limited amount of time should be another. When recruiting the right person to do the job, medicine doesn’t differ from, say, plumbing or architecture. We need the right people to tackle medical problems, with maximum efficiency and optimal results.
Ohad Oren is a fourth year medical student at Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel