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Med Educ. 1989 Jan;23(1):24-9.

A curriculum on medical ignorance.

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Department of Surgery, University of Arizona, Tucson.


The information and technology explosions in medicine have exposed the vast realm of ignorance in human biology as well as the transiency of accepted knowledge and shortcomings of instructional methods which foster rote memorization, excessive reliance on conflicting data bases, and short-answer testing. To circumvent this serious deficiency in medical education, we have initiated a multifaceted Curriculum on Medical Ignorance consisting of 'questioning' seminars and hands-on clinical and laboratory experiences. This teaching programme not only emphasizes medicine's current deficiencies and limited insight into disease processes (i.e. ignorance) but also assists students in developing attitudes and behaviours to investigate basic biologic and clinical unknowns while rendering sound everyday clinical decisions in the face of fragmentary understanding. Based on evaluative feedback over the past 3 years, participants have made substantial progress towards recognizing and dealing constructively with medical ignorance and the limitations of 'knowledge of the day', thereby preparing them for the certain uncertainty of future medical practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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