Changing Education Today to Create the Leaders of Tomorrow

Abraham Flexner published his landmark report on undergraduate and medical school preparation of physicians in 1910. Within a few decades and continuing throughout the remainder of the 20th century, there have been admonitions to enhance, overhaul, or abolish the “traditional” pre-med requirements that he established.

The reasons for this dissatisfaction are self-evident:

  • The pace of scientific discovery and its clinical application has far outstripped the current century-old requirements.
  • The age of information technology has made memorizing vast amounts of content unnecessary.
  • The current requirements lack clinical, scientific, and social relevance.
  • The traditional requirements are used to ‘cull the herd’ of talented aspiring physicians.
  • The requirements disproportionately disadvantage minority and female students who are desperately needed to maintain diversity in our healthcare workforce.
  • The requirements consume so much time and effort that few students end up being grounded in bioethics, social justice, and health policy.
  • A rigid and highly structured pre-medical curriculum, followed by a rigid and highly structured medical school curriculum, deprives students of the ability to develop the critically important skill of lifelong self-directed learning.

Perhaps most important, the current model has perpetuated “pre-med syndrome,” an undergraduate culture of aggressive competition for grades that runs counter to what we value most in medicine: academic and intellectual rigor, creative thinking, teamwork and collaboration, and social conscience.

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Muppets, Push-ups, Pears, and other Matters of the Heart

February is American Heart Month, the time of year when the nation turns its attention to cardiovascular disease and other matters of the heart. While many public service efforts this month focus on educating people about the warning signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke, as members of the medical community we have a real opportunity to change the course of this disease by encouraging heart-healthy lifestyles well before risk factors develop.

Cardiovascular disease kills 7.3 million people across the globe each year, making it the world’s leading cause of death. In the United States alone, one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. At Mount Sinai, our renowned Director of Mount Sinai Heart and Professor of Cardiology, Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, believes these sobering statistics mandate a new approach to preventing cardiovascular disease that identifies people much earlier in order to promote a healthy heart.

A new Muppet with a heart for health

So what do Muppets, push-ups and pears have to do with it? Many children between the ages of three and six who live in Spain already know. Born in Barcelona, Dr. Fuster is the inspiration for Spain’s newest Muppet, Dr. Valentin Ruster, who has a passion for heart health and appears in the Spanish version of Sesame Street. The only physician in the Muppet cast, Dr. Ruster’s character teaches kids how to make healthy decisions, like choosing fruits and vegetables, and having fun with exercise.

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