Bridging The Gap Between Science and Health Policy in Medical Schools

Policy Making In Medical School

The first two years of medical school curriculum consists of a lot of basic science and medical knowledge before clinical training begins. However, during medical school, most medical students learn almost nothing about the tedious details and inner-workings of the health care system they are soon to be a part of.

In the eyes of some medical school administrative bodies, that’s a problem.

The medical school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. is tackling this void of practical insights with a brand new approach.

“Clinicians today have to graduate being great providers of individual care,” said Dr. Lawrence Deyton, the senior associate dean who’s spearheading this effort. “But they also have to recognize and be able to act on the fact that their patients, when they leave the clinic or leave the hospital, are going home [and] living in situations where there are all kinds of factors that promote and perpetuate chronic disease.”

The concept behind the new curriculum is to bridge the gap between medicine and the policy issues it directly affects and is affected by. For example, after learning about the lungs and pulmonary system, the students do a project on controlling childhood asthma to learn how to apply their newfound knowledge in an actual clinical setting.

One by one, small groups of first-year students presented their proposals for how to help control childhood asthma in Washington, D.C., especially in some of the city’s lower-income areas.

From this new approach came many innovative student ideas. For example, a child with asthma wears a bracelet that transmits information to an app called AsthMama to a parent’s smartphone. The bracelet would automatically notify a parent, or the school nurse, or both, before the problem escalates any further.

“The app gives the mother [or father] the chance to be able to really manage the disease,” says first-year student Erin Good, describing the concept her group came up with. How exactly would it work? “Either the child or the bracelet itself can detect problems,” Good explained. “Maybe the child pushes it because they feel like they’re having an asthma attack.”

If it works, it could eventually be covered by the Medicaid program. Good’s group presented to the panel of experts, including local doctors, parents and city health officials, suggesting that the project could be initially paid for by grants.

“So as they’re learning about diseases and conditions, they’re [also] recognizing those public health, population health and social determinants of health factors,” added Dr. Deyton.

Joseph Bryant
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