Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Vineet Arora, FutureDocs

Osmosis Team
Jul 30, 2014

Dr. Vineet Arora is both the Assistant Dean for Scholarship and Discovery and the Director of GME Clinical Learning Environment Innovation at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She has dedicated her career to improving both the quality of medical education and hospital care. We had the pleasure to speak with Dr. Arora and she provided valuable insight into medical education.

How did you decide on a career in medicine?

I was always interested in science when I was growing up and I was able to take an anatomy and physiology class when I was in high school, which piqued my interest in medicine. Additionally, I have a family member who has a chronic illness and the personal experience of being a patient’s family member also sparked my interest in medicine.

What made you specialize in Internal Medicine?

I think that people who go into Internal Medicine like everything, which was certainly true for me. Internal Medicine was a great way for me to explore medicine in general. I like to see undifferentiated patients and make diagnoses. I think that sometimes when you specialize, you often do not have the luxury to make diagnoses of those undifferentiated patients. The second things is that I always knew I was interested in healthcare systems and healthcare policies. I felt as though if I specialized too much, then my experience as a physician would not be that informative to help advance those areas.

How do you believe social media and technology can improve the quality of medical education?

The role of technology and social media in medical education up to this point is best described by the phrase disruptive innovation. However, now the right tools are in place to utilize available technology. It no longer makes sense to learn in a vacuum as students should be aware of the world around them. Technology, and in particular social media, offers immediate answers to many of the questions a student may have. Now, technology is being integrated into the daily rhythm of medicine. For example, when rounding, a clinical question can be asked and an iPad can be used to help reach the correct answer. By searching on a specific disease on Twitter, students can find patient perspectives of their disease and connect with organizations and advocacy groups they may not be aware of.  These are just a few examples of how social media and other technology can be integrated into medical education.

Your research focuses on improving the learning environment for residents. What do you believe is the biggest challenge for medical trainees today?

I think that the biggest challenge for medical trainees today is the uncertainty of the medical environment they will inherit. This is largely to do with the policies that are coming. Right now, physicians are paid to do more, on a fee for service system. However, that will change as we see more reimbursement models focused on bundled payment and the population health approach. When we do this, economic incentives change which has a lot to do with the economic structure. The reimbursement model may not make sense in the future, but the challenge for today is to figure out how to interpret the new policies, stay on the cutting edge, and to figure out how the healthcare system is changing.

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What are the top two or three changes you wish to see in medical education over the next few years?

One of the top changes has to be more training around health care systemsand the cost of care, particularly around how to reduce waste. While this gets a lot of national attention, many studies show that students and residents are not as well versed in healthcare systems as they should be.

The second way in which I wish to see medical education change over the next few years is related to aligning the workforce needs of our nation with the type of doctors we produce. This change needs to happen both geographically and professionally. In the current healthcare system, there are many more specialized doctors than there are general physicians, as well as many more doctors who practice in urban areas than rural ones. We have to recognize that we need to tightly align the type of workforce we need regarding both the number of specialized doctors and the geographic location of those doctors with what medical education is producing. This requires change in policy. One example of how policy is changing is through the loan repayment if you chose to work in a rural area. There needs to be more policy levers working to change medical education. One pressing policy issue is that medical schools have increased their enrollment but there has not been in an increase in places to train.

The third major change is that we need to figure out how to train physicians to work in team settings. People need to work together to achieve the team medical care that we need. Training in medical informatics and communication are ways in which people can understand how to lead a team and understand a teams’ value. The medical field is often filled with many type a personalities who do not want to work in a team or have not been effectively trained to do so. We have to wrestle with this because medicine is often very collaborative.