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Letters
December 22/29, 2004

Professors Not Professing

Author Affiliations
 

Letters Section Editor: Robert M. Golub, MD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(24):2971-2972. doi:10.1001/jama.292.24.2971-b

To the Editor: In her timely Editorial, Dr DeAngelis highlights her concern that professors are no longer professing.1 It appears to me that academic clinicians, those physicians who engage in bedside clinical teaching, patient care, and clinical research, are being relentlessly hunted down and soon face extinction. Physicians “attached” to medical schools can principally follow one of two mutually exclusive pathways: the federally funded researcher or the clinician. The former is highly regarded and protected; the latter is a dispensable commodity. The byproduct of this system is the “overlecturing and underteaching of clinical medicine.”2 However, the practice of medicine cannot be effectively learned except by observing and talking to patients, thinking about their medical problems and discussing these problems with learned colleagues—activities that can only be done at the bedside, not in the classroom. Students at prestigious medical schools are frequently taught by professors who may do less than one clinical rotation a year and who have lost their clinical edge. The clinician faces a barrier in filling the role of teacher as this distracts from the task of generating clinical revenue. Unless medical schools invest in the academic clinician they will fail in their primary mission, the education of medical students.

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