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We need to change the way we teach doctors

We need to change the way we teach doctors

Why do we have a $400,000 small-town GP job no one wants?

Professor of population health at the University of Waikato, Professor Ross Lawrenson, says we aren’t meeting our current medical workforce needs, and that part of the reason for that lies in the way we’re training our doctors.

Professor Lawrenson will discuss the problem with the current medical education system, and propose solutions, at his Inaugural Professorial Lecture on 19 July.

He says the current model of medical education, which dates back to the early-20th century, has created a “GP vs specialist” mind set.

“There’s this idea in society that to be successful, you need to specialise, you can’t be ‘just’ a GP,” says Professor Lawrenson.

“And intentionally or not, we reinforce that attitude in our medical training. We do the majority of our teaching in lecture theatres and later in hospitals, but what we don’t do is expose them to the patients in the community early enough.”

The general practice model of care, says Professor Lawrenson, is community-focussed, where practitioners work across a range of areas, including preventative medicine, chronic disease management, mental health, child health and acute care medicine.

“We should be making sure our medical students are representative of the communities they will be working with, and send them out into those communities earlier in their training,” he says.

And he says we also need to change the attitudes that exist towards being ‘just’ a GP.

“General practice is at the core of health care, and we know that maintaining good primary care leads to better health outcomes”.

“If our model of GP education included an earlier focus on community and rural healthcare, and making sure placements are a positive experience, we might not be seeing situations like the Tokoroa GP vacancy in the future.”

Inaugural Professorial Lectures are the University of Waikato’s way of introducing new professors to the community and to show how their work is having an impact on the world around us. Lectures are free and open to the public and take place at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts from 5.15pm.


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