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November 23, 1970

Medical Education and Professional Competence

JAMA. 1970;214(8):1556-1557. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03180080136024

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The effectiveness of the physician in providing care is a responsibility of medical education. Education is the instrument which translates the art and science of medicine into service through the physician-student.

The relationship between education and professional competence is complex and understanding of it imprecise. It is a sensitive topic that involves the physician's perceptions of himself. At issue is the relevance of medical education. Analysis of the relationship requires data which presently must be generated with methodology of doubtful reliability and validity. The physician is trained to be competent, but perhaps most confounding in the search for understanding is this basic question: competent to do what? Do we know the role of the physician at present or what it will need to be 20 years from now?

The task of improving the profession's insight into the link between education and competence is so fraught with frustration that it is