Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Stefan Lindgren, World Federation for Medical Education

Osmosis Team
Jun 23, 2014

The World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) sets the standards for medical education throughout the world. We were very excited to speak with Dr. Stefan Lindgren, president of the WFME, about his experiences in medicine and his perspective on global medical education. He also serves as a professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Lund University in Sweden and senior consultant in gastroenterology at the Skåne University Hospital in Malmö. Read our discussion with Dr. Lingrend below!

How did you decide on a career in medicine?

It was what I wanted after high school — an attractive possibility to combine natural sciences and humanities, to combine professional work and research, and most of all to do something useful. There were also good job possibilities within my country and abroad.

What made you pick gastroenterology as your specialty?

During my undergraduate studies I understood that Internal Medicine was closest to my interests and abilities. After starting that training I met my future mentor and role model, and he was a gastroenterologist with a particular interest in hepatology. That is the direct reason why I chose that speciality, and hepatology in particular. I have never regretted it!

What does an "average" day look like for you?

Actually, at this stage of my career there are no average days. I have a position as professor at Lund University and Senior Consultant in Gastroenterology at the University Hospital in Malmö, Sweden. I direct my work myself and am only accountable for results achieved over long periods. Usually I spend 2 days a week at my office/clinic, including clinical work, and the other days are spent in diverse external affairs — travels, scientific commitments, university commitments, World Federation for Medical Education affairs, tasks related to my position as president elect of the Swedish Society of Medicine and so on. In addition I write a lot and, of course, teach. But not many days are similar. Last week and this week, I attended conferences in Taiwan and now Mexico, presenting in my role as president of WFME. Next week I will be faculty at Harvard Medical School in Boston and now I am being interviewed for Leaders in Medical Education. These are just a few examples!

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It seems that more medical students are pursuing interdisciplinary careers and degrees (MD/MPH, MD/MBA, etc). Can you describe how you managed to combine your career in medicine with your interest in leadership?

Well, it is not easy. As I said before, at this stage of my career I am my own "boss". So I can plan my days, weeks and months according to my needs. It is necessary to control your own agenda in order to be able to combine different professional activities, I believe. Also, my work is my main interest and I spend a lot of time on it. It allows me to meet a lot of interesting and impressive people and get ideas that I can use in other situations. I also believe that it helps to be focussed on the results achieved and allow the working process to be flexible. In my role as leader at many levels, I am interested in the results obtained, and not necessarily on my own visibility. I am visible enough!

As president of the World Federation for Medical Education, what do you see as the biggest challenge to medical students throughout the world? 

To be able to trust that the education they receive is of high quality. The number of medical schools in the world is exploding, and the quality varies a lot. WFME tries to affect this through accreditation support and recognition and through a web-based directory of all medical schools in the world, The World Directory of Medical Schools. Students also need to act as change agents to influence education and meet the expectations of tomorrow´s patients and global society.

What changes do you believe would improve the quality of medical education?

We need to focus on the competencies needed from the future doctor in a global perspective and to transform those into learning outcomes. Then, we need to construct assessments that reassure that each student has demonstrated those competencies before graduation. At the same time, we need to support each student in achieving the highest possible level of success based on her or his abilities. "Strive for excellence"!! Finally, we need to have a clear picture about the possibilities and responsibilities of undergraduate education in relation to the other two phases of life-long learning as a doctor.