Cambridge education model at UNC Medical School recently announced

University of North Carolina School of Medicine has started an interesting pilot program where selected students in the fourth year of the medical program are given the opportunity to have more practical medical training.

One of the many areas that cries out for change in the field of medical education is providing students with practical experience both in terms of medical procedures and interacting with patients. Medical students at UNC School of Medicine and most other American medical schools are given a tour of the hospital they will be working in.

With the new pilot program, based at Mission Hospital in Western North Carolina, the selected students are able to practice suturing on pig’s feet!

The original budget projected for the initiative was $450 million US. Uhm! Cough! The project did take a detour due the funding being witdrawn as a result of the state and country wide budget tightening, resulting in a smaller scale implementation where 4 students instead of the original 40, get to test out and help develop the curriculum, thereby forming the foundation. The project will instead have to make do with $250 000 US.

The education model, developed and tested by the Harvard Medical school, promotes students having an ongoing relationship with patients by observation and interaction with the patients as they return for further care and procedures. The so named Cambridge model has been adopted by a minuscule few medical schools in the country and is apparently the first significant change in American medical education in the last 100 years.

A small step forward, yet significant. Patient-doctor relationship, I would say is one of the most important aspects of health care. To hear that educational institutes are moving timidly towards developing this critical aspect of their programs, is…progress!

Interestingly one would be able to setup an advanced rural clinic in sub-Saharan Africa that would treat and provide care for 1000s of patients with a budget of $250 000 US dollars. Now if medical schools that embrace the Cambridge model sought to form a program which allowed their students to go to such clinics in Africa (financed by their fantastic budgets), a lot more than four students would get valuable clinical exposure and practical experience and at the same time patients served by these clinics would benefit from health care that previously was not possible. Win win right?

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