Why, you might ask, is having more than a passing familiarity with research so important in medical education and in the practice of today’s medicine? And why do we feel so strongly about this issue that we have woven a scholarly project into our curriculum and made it an integral component of every medical student’s experience here ? The simple answer is tied to the never-ending quest for excellence in the education of would-be physicians. However, simple answers don’t tell the full story, which, in this case, is perhaps best approached from the bottom line: What kind of doctor do you want? Our thinking is that physicians schooled in the analytic process are better prepared than those without such a background to retrieve and critically evaluate the information in this week’s JAMA and New England Journal of Medicine — information that can help them determine patient treatments, for instance, or separate advertising hype from established facts in the process of evaluating new drugs.
We believe that physicians schooled in the analytic process will listen to a patient’s medical history and complaints differently. Rather than starting with a set of memorized characteristics and trying to fit the patient into one pathogenic category or another, they listen to all the facts the patient provides and put them together a new. Even if the outcome turns out to be familiar, the realm of diagnostic possibilities is much broader and the practice of medicine much richer than when it is based simply on rote recognition of symptom patterns. We also contend that physicians schooled in the analytic process are more likely than others to get to the bottom of a case and to yield creative clinical decisions based on solid evidence when symptoms don’t fall into common patterns and that they’ll be better equipped to deal with the rapidly changing developments that have become a hallmark of contemporary medicine. So, once again, what kind of doctor do you want?