Send to

Choose Destination
Acad Med. 1997 Apr;72(4):253-8.

Educating tomorrow's doctors: the thing that really matters is that we care.

Author information

Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH 03755-3833, USA.


The unique purpose of medical schools is to select and educate competent, caring physicians capable of meeting society's expectations for health care. The author discusses this purpose first in the context of liberal education, which provides a broad perspective essential in the education of doctors and other professionals. Such an education can be achieved partly by how medical students are selected and by effectively uniting it with professional learning. The most important goal of liberal education is to promote intellectual wholeness as a lifelong pursuit of physicians. Second, the author reviews medical curricula, which have been slowly evolving away from a focus on providing instruction and toward one of producing learning. This new approach is a more rational one, and can be seen in some schools' reductions of lectures and increases in team teaching and problem-based learning, and earlier exposure of students to patients, especially in ambulatory care settings. An important role of medical educators is to provide enough free time for students to learn, and to pay attention to the "informal curriculum," where the unwritten ethical codes of medicine are revealed. The author then turns to issues of professionalism, especially that elusive part that goes beyond expertise. He emphasizes that the training of tomorrow's doctors is ultimately a public goal, and that medical schools must help restore public trust in doctors by selecting and nurturing professionals who see medicine in a broad social context. He reiterates that a liberally educated doctor is most likely to have such an outlook, and concludes by urging medical educators to remember that there is no substitute for a doctor's competence, caring, and professionalism expressed in the context of a liberally educated mind. And that the most important thing that educators can do as they bend to their task is to care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wolters Kluwer
Loading ...
Support Center