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Physician-writer Abraham Verghese on ritual, technology and medical training

Listening to Abraham Verghese, MD, is always a treat, so I quickly clicked on a recently published Q&A featuring Verghese in conversation with Steven Stack, MD, president of the American Medical Association.

Of particular interest were comments on changes in the training of medical students. Here's Verghese:

There have been some striking changes. For one thing, the model that you probably trained under and certainly I trained under — an intense focus on the patient and the bedside and rounds going from bed to bed — I think it’s been sort of kidnapped in a sense by the workstation.

One of the great disappointments students have when they come on the wards is… in the first two years they’re learning physical diagnosis, and they’re so excited to learn how to read the body as a text. And they arrive on the wards, and their moment of awakening, almost disillusionment, is to find that the currency on the wards does not revolve around the patient. It revolves much more around the computer. For many of them, it’s a moment of crisis. I think it actually leads many of them away from primary care, which is not a good trend.

Verghese also weighs in on the importance of touch and how a physical exam is a ritual akin to baptism or graduation. Two videos round out the post, where Verghese and Stack (the youngest AMA president since 1854!) discuss the excessive use of tests and Verghese's motivation to begin writing books.

Previously: Abraham Verghese: "It's a great time for physician leaders to embrace design thinking", Abraham Verghese: "There is no panacea for an investment of time at the bedside with students and Physician-author Abraham Verghese encourages journalists to tell the powerful stories of medicine
Photo by HolgersFotografie


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