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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Today’s med students learn to connect with patients

By H. David Wilson
Special to The Eagle

Until recently, medical education had changed very little. The focus was on learning the science of the systems, treating problems and observing others. In the past decade and in the next, we’re seeing a shift toward patient-centered learning, prevention, simulation training and evidence-based, cost-effective medical practices. Today’s graduates are knowledgeable, compassionate, confident and trained to connect with their patients.

Focusing on the person

At the very center of medicine is the patient. It’s not the biology or the organ, the system or the disease. Yet, that’s how I learned medicine … one subject at a time. Learning information out of context made it difficult to retain. And too often, I was required to learn science I might never use in the care of people.

Today, medical education across the country is evolving as we learn more about learning. Exploring patient cases with the aid of a physician leader, looking up information, teaching one another, and then meeting the patient at the end of the week is called patient-centered learning. And it works.

Starting in the first week of medical school, students receive a case they study throughout the week along with lectures on biomedical sciences. On Friday, they meet the patient and his or her physician to learn more and ask questions. They hear what it felt like to receive the diagnosis, what the costs were, and about personal challenges.

The students enjoy learning a lot more, they do extremely well on their tests, and when they begin their hands-on, clinical training in the third year, they hit the ground running.

Preventing disease

While physicians have largely been trained to treat problems – and still are – today’s students spend more time on prevention in medical school. Keeping people healthy is easier and more cost-effective than treating them once issues develop.

With a department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health on the Wichita campus, we’re positioned to educate well-rounded physicians who can help patients stay healthy and lower costs.

Practicing with simulators

It’s proven that students learn even better when they have hands-on experience.

For years, pilots have learned to fly by observing and practicing a variety of circumstances inside simulators. The repetition and exposure to difficult situations builds their skills and confidence.

With today’s medical models and simulators, we’re able to fully prepare medical students and expose them to unique and stressful situations in the same way pilots are trained.

When our medical students get hands-on training opportunities, they’re confident and prepared thanks to today’s technology and the use of simulators.

For almost 40 years, the KU School of Medicine Wichita Campus has been providing hands-on clinical training to medical students in their third and fourth years thanks to our hospital partners and volunteer faculty.

Today, we’re committed to offering the most innovative and proven education possible in all four years of medical school on the Wichita Campus as we educate even more doctors for Kansas.

Dr. H. David Wilson, a pediatrician with fellowship training in infectious diseases, was named dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita campus and professor of pediatrics in 2009.

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