About Project Medical Education (PME)
For academic medical centers, recent years have brought unprecedented cost pressures. The growing influence of managed care and sharp cuts in federal and state funding forced hospitals to trim costs and compete for business. This was a particularly difficult task, as these facilities have traditionally relied on profits from patient care to help finance the high costs of their essential mission to train new doctors, conduct research and care for the uninsured. The central challenge for America's medical schools and teaching hospitals now became how to keep medical education strong.
That dilemma led the AAMC and a group of government relations officers representing institutions across the country to seek solutions and promote sound policies for funding medical education. From their ideas Project Medical Education was created to educate policymakers about the process of medical education, the benefits it provides, its complex funding mechanisms, and the essential role of government in providing financial support.
"It's critical for Congress to understand how the policies made in D.C. impact doctors and nurses and patients in the hospitals back home," says Paul Vick, associate vice president for government relations for Duke University Health System and former chair of the steering committee for PME. "If you don't understand that, you can't make good policy."
The Project Medical Education model program is based on ideas collected from knowledgeable government relations and communications professionals representing a cross-section of the nation's medical schools and teaching hospitals. The program's core messages are designed to fill knowledge gaps identified through polls conducted with Congressional members and their staff. In polls and focus groups, participants said they want:
- an "up close and personal" look at medical education;
- a program that moves at a rapid pace, not one that relies only on sitting and listening
- to have the process presented in "hands-on" situations where they can see it at work; and
- to speak to a variety of sources, particularly students and residents.
Based on this information, Project Medical Education designed a program where participants are "admitted" to medical schools, presented with a white coat and directed through activities that show them what it takes to become a doctor. In the process, they gain a better understanding of the operations of medical schools and teaching hospitals - and the impact of their legislative actions.
The Project Medical Education model program is highly flexible. The basic program contains 12 modules that can be presented in their entirety as a 1 ½ day program; these modules may be compressed, expanded or rearranged depending upon the individual needs of the institution or the participant's schedule.
After completing Project Medical Education, participants are encouraged to share their experience with their co-workers and urge them to take part in a successive Project Medical Education program. Additionally, the host institution is offered as a resource for information on health care issues. Combining all of these elements helps participants use their new perspectives in shaping policy to benefit medical education.