Health & Medicine

Doctors look to the next five decades at symposium

The University of Kentucky College of Medicine is celebrating its 50 anniversary by looking to the next five decades.

"We are looking at what kind of physicians we can create," said Dr. Jay Perman, dean of the college. A panel of national experts will share their visions at a symposium Friday called "Preparing Physicians for the Next 50 Years."

The medical profession is ripe for a change, said Dr. Pauline Chen, a surgeon, author and online columnist for The New York Times, who is participating in the symposium. But physician training has changed little in the past 100 years, she said.

And as medical treatment has become more complex, the relationship between doctor and patient has deteriorated, she said. "There is a growing gap between doctors and patients."

Even the language that doctors use can sometimes be difficult for patients to understand, she said.

The key is to create a more team-centered approach to training doctors, one in which all people involved in a patient's care interact and communicate regularly.

UK is working on strengthening the team model for medicine, Perman said. There has been a focused effort in the past three or four years to bring together students from all of the health sciences — including pharmacy, nursing and physical therapy — to work together. Instead of training doctors to check a chart before visiting a patient, they are encouraged to get information directly from the nurses.

"By the time they graduate, they are used to working with each other, and they know what they bring to the experience," Perman said.

Said Chen: "When I went to medical school, ... there was none of that. We were very, very isolated."

Medical schools have "really started to question and look at how those things are done."

For example, she said, some schools have started to study narrative medicine, how reading and writing can help teach doctors about empathy and compassion.

The medical profession, she said, needs to always strive to "look at things anew."

Other symposium panelists are Dr. Dennis O'Leary, president emeritus of The Joint Commission, the leading health-care accrediting body in the United States, and Paul O'Neill, former Treasury secretary and co-founder of the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative "Everyday Excellence."