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Medical Schools, Students See Gaps in Policy Education

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, October 3, 2012

"When we surveyed those students, the ACA was all over the news. I obviously don't have any evidence, because there hasn't been another survey like ours, but I don't think the results would be much different."

Winkelman's results mirror a similar survey of medical school deans in the U.S. in 2010 who said that their schools didn't offer enough health policy education. In that study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2011, 52% of schools said they were increasing health policy courses.

One issue, says Barbara McNeil MD, PhD, founding head of the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School, is time. 

"During their first year, medical students are required to take a course in health policy. It's a good time to give them a general background. But, for most medical students, it's very hard to put something in that's a required course during the clinical years. It's just the nature of the way the curriculum works."

McNeil also says scrutinizing the details of healthcare policies doesn't serve medical students well.

"Our goal is not to get into the nitty gritty of every little regulatory aspect. That's not appropriate for medical students. They need to think bigger picture."

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