Med School’s Brave New World

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The face of medical education is changing and patients may not like it one bit. “There is a movement towards principles and concepts rather than specific courses,” Bailus Walker, Jr. of the Howard University School of Medicine said on April 4, 2012 at a conference in Crystal City, VA. “Entrance to medical schools will be based on principles and concepts rather than biochemistry knowledge.”

“The old departmental barriers and walls are coming down.” Dr. Walker thinks this is a good thing. He calls it a “convergence of disciplines.”

“That will lead to more STEM education,” he said, referring to training in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. “The workforce in science and technology is declining,” he averred. “We need more minorities.”

Howard, where Dr. Walker is based, is an historically black college or university (hbcu), an official designation by the U. S. Department of Education. He nevertheless showed how the search for perfect minority hires in the STEM professions can border on the seriocomic. “I got a call asking for a black, female toxicologist,” he remembered. “Well, there aren’t that many toxicologists.”

“When you add black and female to the mix, you are asking the impossible.”

Dr. Walker is a professor of Environmental and Occupational Medicine. “Virtually all diseases can be changed or altered environmentally,” he said at the conference at the Doubletree Hilton. “Virtually all diseases have an environmental factor.” The conference which Dr. Walker spoke at was sponsored by EJ Conferences, Inc.

Clearly Dr. Walker prizes environmental “principles and concepts” in medical education and the rest of the college curricula as well. He admits that genetics plays a key role in health characteristics but argues “heredity and genetics are inherited and you can do with them what you will but you can provide a wholesome environment.”

“Low and middle-income populations are the most endangered by environmental degradation,” he claimed. “Health disparities persist.”

“They have fingerprints in science in their cause and they have fingerprints of science in their solution.”

Nevertheless, he admits that, “While we well know that social and economic factors play a role, we do not understand the mechanism.”

“It’s fine to say that substandard housing causes disease but the question is how.” Perhaps some of those outmoded biochemistry courses could provide the answer, or lay to rest the assertion.

It should be noted that Dr. Walker’s own medical credentials are impeccable and go back decades. Oddly, his commitment to “environmental justice” can take a unexpected politically incorrect turn. “The movement of people and things across borders carries health risks,” he warned the crowd at the Doubletree.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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