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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New way of training med students touted in NEJM

By Liz Kowalczyk, Globe staff

Doctors from Cambridge Health Alliance, which includes Cambridge Hospital, and Harvard Medical School tout a new way of training medical students in tomorrow's New England Journal of Medicine.

Third-year medical students who spend the entire year following the same patients as they are treated by various doctors throughout the health care system see patients more frequently and are supervised more often by experienced faculty, than students trained the traditional way, write Dr. David Hirsh and Dr. Barbara Ogur, both physicians at the hospital; and HMS professors Dr. George Thibault, an executive with Partners HealthCare, and Dr. Malcolm Cox of the federal Veteran's Health Administration. Students normally go from hospital to hospital for one- to three-month stints in specific specialties.

Students in the Cambridge pilot program, which began in July 2004, also score as well or better on tests of clinical skill and knowledge than their peers, the authors report, although results are preliminary.

Cox, who helped Hirsh and Ogur develop the program, gets revenge of sorts in the article. Many doctors at Harvard's other teaching hospitals considered the Cambridge approach too radical, and felt Cox was not building a consensus as leader of a curriculum reform initiative at Harvard Medical School. He resigned after 18 months, saying in an interview with the Globe last year that he had "deep philosophical differences" with many Harvard faculty who believed that students learn better the traditional way.

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