A Tea-Steeping or i-Doc Model for Medical Education?

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Abstract

One hundred years after Abraham Flexner released his report Medical Education in the United States and Canada, the spirit of reform is alive again. Reports in the United States and Canada have called for significant changes to medical education that will allow doctors to adapt to complex environments, work in teams, and meet a wide range of social needs. These reports call for clear educational outcomes but also for a flexible, individualized approach to learning. Whether or not change will result has much to do with the alignment between what is proposed and the nature of current societal discourses about how medical education should be conducted. Currently, two powerful and competing models of competence development are operating at odds with one another. The traditional one is time-based (a “tea-steeping” model, in which the student “steeps” in an educational program for a historically determined fixed time period to become a successful practitioner). This model directs attention to processes such as admission and curriculum design. The newer one is outcomes-based (an “i-Doc” model, a name suggested by the Apple i-Pod that infers that medical schools and residencies, like factories, can produce highly desirable products adapted to user needs and desires). This model focuses more on the functional capabilities of the end product (the graduate student, resident, or practicing physician). The author explores the implications of both time-based and outcomes-based models for medical education reform and proposes an integration of their best features.

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