As a pre-medical student at the University of Maryland, I am taking classes that will prepare me, hopefully, for medical school. I took organismal biology and mammalian physiology for a fundamental understanding of the human body. These classes are excellent at teaching the necessary facts and are tried and tested. Healthcare decisions such as choosing the correct diagnosis fundamentally rely on this common knowledge.
However, the healthcare environment is becoming more complex. How are the social determinants of health and equity supposed to be addressed? How is institutionalized racism supposed to be challenged? How can access to medicine be improved? Our conversations with CEOs and other influential thought leaders at Healthcare Innovators has made it evident that modern problems are interdisciplinary problems. Therefore, modern solutions must be interdisciplinary solutions. At the undergraduate level, this requires two shifts from the customary curriculum: education by professionals and cross-disciplinary education.
Professionals in the field must adapt to the modern environment. For professors, the fundamentals in chemistry, biology, and physics rarely change. Students normally learn the basic science curriculum and encounter modern changes in the workforce. This is not sufficient because the healthcare system is especially dynamic. Students can integrate reality with theory if they utilize the expertise of professionals in the industry in their education. This would also benefit students better conceptualize and understand their course content. This is an untapped resource which serves to catalyze new ideas and promote innovation. The physician also needs to know how to work with non-medical personnel, such as law-makers and civic leaders, in order to facilitate cooperation on broader issues. These types of interactions would be completely novel and foreign without the proper preparation. Once again, professionals can bring a wider perspective on healthcare than is taught in the classroom and better prepare students.
Pre-health students should not simply focus on the normal hard sciences. They should not only be familiar with topics of government and finance, but also be familiar with associating with government and finance students. It is clear that the root of diseases often lies beyond their biological origins and falls under the behemoth of socioeconomic inequality. The pre-med student’s ability to understand the reality of healthcare is severely hindered without an understanding beyond science. Healthcare Innovators’s conversations with CEOs make it clear the future is interdisciplinary.
Basic knowledge of economics and finance limits the perspective of many pre-health students. Without understanding of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, students are not able to comprehend the civil and economic factors that play ever growing roles in today’s America. Students who cannot understand the reality of their eventual patients will weaken even the most effective treatments.
I recently attended a talk about racism in healthcare, and heard an excellent analogy, which uses a closing restaurant. Those who are eating can only see the “open” side of the sign, while those outside only see the “closed” side. The point is that the perspective of other’s is not always easy to see. I believe this can also be applied for the pre-health curriculum. The traditional method paints healthcare as a solely clinical pursuit – it is a straightforward and familiar view. However, the reality is much more complex, a mixture of culture, law, finance, and health. Educators must be able to walk outside and see the “closed” sign. A modern curriculum should and must take into account the growing intricacies of the modern world.