Tag Archives: medical school

Study highlights significance of representation in medical school: Why this research matters to reporters

Photo by the University of Nottingham via Flickr.

Throughout my reporting of the pandemic, I’ve made an explicit effort to interview many more women than men, especially women of color. I’ve done that because the popular perception of a “doctor” remains a white male, and I believe that one way I can contribute to changing that mindset is to be more inclusive about who I show doing a job.

That’s why a new research letter in JAMA Surgery on representation in medical school faculty caught my eye. In short, it found low diversity overall among surgery faculty and residents and revealed that having more underrepresented minorities among the faculty was correlated with more students from those groups. Neither of those findings is necessarily surprising, but they have two major implications for journalists reporting on a study that requires an expert source in surgery:

  • Reporters likely need to work a little harder to find more diverse sources when reporting on surgery research since senior faculty in that field isn’t particularly diverse.
  • You must find diverse sources because representation matters. If more faculty from underrepresented groups correlated with more students from those groups, it’s possible that including more diverse sources in your stories will make a difference in who reads your stories and what your readers take away from them. It will also allow you to present perspectives you might not have gotten if you had relied on too many sources who look alike.

Study methodology and key findings

Researchers used data from the American Association of Medical Colleges to assess the race, ethnicity, and sex of medical students and full-time surgical faculty members. (Note: Although the study states that it assessed the sex of faculty members, it seems more likely they were assessing gender, a common conflation that occurs in research.) One interesting aspect of this study is that investigators look specifically at “underrepresented” groups as opposed to “minority” groups. The difference is significant given that certain minority groups are overrepresented in medical subspecialties.

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New programs aim to give young docs skills to care for aging adults

Photo: Lauren BaggettDr. Ngozi Ifeadi, an internal medicine resident at Athens Regional Medical Center, reviews medication history with a 70-year-old patient at ARMC's Community Care Clinic.

Photo: Lauren BaggettDr. Ngozi Ifeadi, an internal medicine resident at Athens Regional Medical Center, reviews medication history with a 70-year-old patient at ARMC’s Community Care Clinic.

Athens, Ga., is a small city about 75 miles east of Atlanta. Older adults love its low cost of living, community-mindedness and proximity to a major urban area. What they don’t love, however, is the poor access to specialized senior health care.

Nearly 10 percent (11,830) of the city’s 120,000 residents are over age 65, but only three office-based geriatricians practice here. Continue reading

AAMC gives recommendations for clinical COI

After taking on continuing medical education and medical research, the Association of American Medical Colleges is now tackling conflicts of interest related to clinical care with its latest report, “In the Interest of Patients: Recommendations for Physician Financial Relationships and Clinical Decision Making” (46-page PDF). If you’re just looking for the Big Recommendations, the most salient of which are paraphrased below, fast forward to pages 24 and 25. Warning: They’re vague.

  • Medical centers should compensate doctors in a way that promotes the patients’ best interests.
  • Professional medical societies and medical institutions (such as teaching hospitals) need to take a long, hard look at their own relationships with the industry.
  • Institutions should identify their physicians’ industry relationships, set thresholds for their disclosure, and identify situations in which disclosures should be made directly to the patient. These regulations should all have teeth.
  • Centers and physicians should work with patients to figure out how best to disclose industry ties.

The AAMC committee that produced the report wrote that, while they focused on academic medicine, their recommendations could (and should) be applied to all of clinical medicine.

Foe of degree mills sets sights on medical school

David Wolman, writing in Wired, chronicles the efforts of an Illinois physics professor, George Gollin (bio), to topple a $7 million fake-degree empire. It’s a fun story, and well worth a read, but the part that will most interest health journalists pops up at the very end: The professor who took down the operation that granted about 9,600 fake degrees used by everyone from schoolteachers to Bush White House staffers is now looking into what he thinks is a phony online medical school.stluke

Wolman ends with this sketch of the professor at work:

He erases equations from a blackboard and scribbles a spider’s web of names, notes, and online sites all relating to an outfit called St. Luke School of Medicine, which he believes sells bogus medical degrees. “You get a real rise out of people when you talk about fake MDs,” he says.

The outfit in question, St. Luke School of Medicine, has now posted a message announcing it’s no longer accepting new students. However, if Gollin’s previous work (in his own words) is any indication, St. Luke is probably just one entry point into a universe of dubious medical degrees.

NOTE: As the Wired story makes clear, media outlets played a major role in the effort to expose the first diploma mill, especially by shaming public institutions into investigating and prosecuting the offenders. Reporters like The Spokesman-Review‘s Bill Morlin and Jim Camden helped connect the dots and expose the full reach of the story.

Charter class enters medical school – for free

CNBC reports on the charter class of the University of Central Florida’s medical school and its unique model that allows students to attend tuition free.

Dr. Deborah German, dean of the medical school, says it admitted 41 students in the school’s first class and donors have pledged enough money to cover each student’s tuition and living expenses for all four years.

The report says that most medical students have racked up more than $150,000 of debt by the time they graduate. The report includes discussion about whether coming out of med school debt-free might encourage some to go into primary care rather than more lucrative specialties, such as plastic surgery.

German says that when medical students enter school, most of them do so with dreams and a sense of altruism but that by the end of medical school, they are starting families and the reality of debt sets in, perhaps pushing them away from going into primary care.

The donors, according to German, include hospitals, banks, law firms, women’s groups and all kinds of businesses. The money comes without strings; the students are not committed to go into a particular specialty or practice in a certain location.