Image with Commentary

May 2015

Medical education relies on both rote (didactic) and experiential learning. The path starts with a college mastery of physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology. The journey continues through medical school with lectures and labs in physiology, pharmacology, anatomy, pathology and biochemistry. Medical education shifts to experiential learning during the clinical years of medical school, residency and fellowship. Many cognitive skills are required but the most useful skill is a good memory.

Potential discrepancies between successful applicants and successful graduates challenge all educators but particularly the gatekeepers of medical education. Standardized testing satisfies the needs of a meritocracy, but the suspicion remains that standardized tests may do little to prepare doctors for a non-standardized world. During clinical practice, recertification by standardized testing continues; the cost, benefit and public need for such tests to maintain hospital privileges and licensing is hotly contested.

The image shows a resident performing a meticulous surgical procedure using a surgical microscope. It has been a long and expensive road leading to this day. Has standardized testing selected the best person for this awesome responsibility? (2015)

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