Time for an Acute Focus on Chronic Care in Undergraduate Medical Education

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Abstract

As the burdens of chronic disease rise in the United States, both undergraduate and graduate medical education must adapt to adequately equip future physicians with the skills to manage the increasingly complex health needs affecting the population. However, traditional models of undergraduate medical education (UME) have made focusing on chronic care education challenging. In this Invited Commentary, the authors advocate for strengthening UME based on five approaches to engage trainees in learning about chronic care across both the preclinical and clinical phases of their education: (1) introducing chronic care in the preclinical years; (2) prioritizing chronic care education across all specialties; (3) maximizing the fourth year of medical school through a chronic care focus; (4) creating chronic-disease-focused advanced clerkships; and (5) leveraging technology for education. These five approaches call for restructuring of both preclinical and clinical education to more comprehensively emphasize the skills and knowledge needed for trainees to manage chronic diseases. Such efforts will ensure that graduating medical students are well versed in the competencies needed to effectively care for patients with chronic conditions in advance of their transition to graduate medical education and clinical practice.

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