in bygone days, when social change and the evolution of medical care moved at a more leisurely pace, medical education did the same. Those days are over, but medical schools don’t seem to have acknowledged that fact. Training new doctors in today’s rapidly evolving social, political, and medical climates demands a faster rate of curricular change than ever before, and our medical schools are falling behind.
As medical students who study the social and political systems that affect health care, it is clear to us that medical school curricula tend to give short shrift to socially relevant topics that are vitally important to our futures as practicing physicians.
Take nutrition. In preclinical coursework, medical students learn in detail about obesity, diabetes, and the immense role diet plays in health and disease. But we receive little, if any, education on nutrition. A 2015 survey found that three-quarters of medical schools fail to provide the recommended minimum number of hours of nutrition education and less than half teach any nutrition at all in clinical practice.
Gun violence is another example. In the wake of recent mass shootings, the medical community has repeatedly called for gun violence to be treated as a public health crisis. Medical students assemble in their white coats for protests and attend marches, purporting to represent the medical perspective on this pressing political issue. Yet our academic institutions rarely provide guidance to physicians-in-training about firearm safety or firearm injury prevention, resulting in missed opportunities to improve patient and population health.
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