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A Word From the President: Working Together to Advance Medical Education

AAMC Reporter: January 2016

Advancing medical education is at the very heart of the AAMC mission. No organization works more closely with America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals to ensure we are selecting, training, and graduating physicians who will be able to address the needs of the patients we all serve.

Our recent decision to reunite the Medical Education Meeting with Learn Serve Lead: The AAMC Annual Meeting in 2016 was based on the clear feedback that to advance medical education, we must all work together to craft and carry out a vision for the future. As the only organization that brings together the medical education, research, and health system leaders of today with those of tomorrow, the AAMC is where those important conversations about the future of medical education, the advancement of research, and the delivery of high-quality care occur. Reuniting these meetings will ensure that medical education—and medical educators—are an integral part of our annual meeting, where the strategic issues that span all three of our mission areas are discussed and the solutions are developed.

As I visit medical schools and teaching hospitals across the country, I see many examples of how our community—our faculty, students, residents, and institutional leaders—is working together to lead change and improve our nation’s health care system, from implementing new team-based models to deliver care, to using innovative technology to improve and expand patient access, to changing fundamentally how tomorrow’s doctors are educated.

The innovation occurring in undergraduate and graduate medical education comes at a critical moment in our health system’s transformation. With the explosion of new scientific and medical knowledge, medical decision making is becoming more complex and technology is revolutionizing the way we care for patients. Not only do physicians need to keep pace with new developments in our understanding of diseases, treatments, and cures, they also are expected to have superior communication skills, manage patients with multiple chronic conditions, and understand the social determinants of health. It would be impossible to teach today’s medical students everything they will need to know for clinical careers that could last 40 years or longer.

To prepare new physicians for the demands of clinical care in the future, the AAMC and our members have been shifting the focus of medical education away from the accumulation of facts and toward the development of core professional competencies that will provide medical students with the necessary skill sets to learn and practice throughout their entire careers. These competencies, in domains such as patient care, knowledge for practice, and communication skills, have been identified with the goal of training physicians to provide compassionate, high-quality care while managing multiple sources of information. Because the development of competencies begins before medical school and continues through the end of practice, this model lends itself to career-long learning and contributes to our goal of creating a seamless educational continuum that ensures students can transition effectively from premedical education to medical school, residency, and practice.

We have also been working with our members to determine the environments best suited to learning in this new paradigm of medical education. In 2014, the AAMC Board of Directors approved a statement that calls for shared accountability for creating a learning environment that fosters respect, resilience, collegiality, and integrity. In support of this goal, we recently surveyed faculty to identify what they consider to be essential elements of an optimal learning setting. Several major themes emerged: protected faculty time, support and recognition by the institution and peers, and making the education mission an institutional priority were all identified as critical to a high-quality education. Faculty also identified high-quality progressive curricula and teaching strategies, a supportive setting, and committed teachers as essential elements of an optimal environment for learners. The next steps will be to engage faculty constituents to identify and highlight models for implementing these elements at our institutions around the country.

With so many important changes happening today in medical education, the AAMC Reporter is introducing a series in 2016 that will feature monthly articles on the newest educational innovations happening at America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals. The series will cover new models for training medical students and residents in everything from quality and safety to interprofessional education to community partnerships and the learning environment. The first article in this issue of the Reporter highlights efforts to integrate safety principles and practices into residency training. It also features innovative programs that are raising learners’ situational awareness and bolstering their confidence to voice concerns over potential safety problems. Educating medical students and residents about how to improve quality and make care safer for patients is one of the most significant and important changes happening right now.

I encourage you to follow the Reporter series each month, and I hope that it sparks ideas and conversations about new models to try at your home institutions. Educating future physicians to practice in a health care system that is changing rapidly to meet society’s needs is a considerable challenge. But through innovation, sharing new discoveries and best practices, and working together to implement change, I believe that the AAMC and America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals can advance and transform medical education, enhance teaching and learning, and improve the health of all.

Darrell G. Kirch, MD

Darrell G. Kirch, MD


“Educating medical students and residents about how to improve quality and make care safer for patients is one of the most significant and important changes happening right now.”