Commission Calls for Major Reforms in Education of Health Professionals

Harvard School of Public Health Dean Julio Frenk giving the welcoming speech.

Major reform is needed in the education of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals if they are to have the competencies needed for the 21stcentury, according to the Commission on the Education of Health Professionals for the 21stCentury, Co-chaired by Harvard School of Public Health Dean Julio Frenk and CMB President Lincoln Chen, the Commission Report published in The Lancet was launched at a Harvard symposium on November 29-December 1, 2010.

Changes are needed, the authors say, because of fragmented, outdated, and static curricula that produce ill-equipped graduates. “The problems are systemic: mismatch of competencies to patient and population needs; poor teamwork; persistent gender stratification of professional status; narrow technical focus without broader contextual understanding; episodic encounters rather than continuous care; predominant hospital orientation at the expense of primary care; quantitative and qualitative imbalances in the professional labor market; and weak leadership to improve health system performance.”

The Commission report, Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century, proposes both instructional and institutional reforms. Instructional reforms should encompass the entire range from admission to graduation, to generate a diverse student body with a competency-based curriculum, prepare students for the realities of teamwork, and help them develop flexible career paths based on the spirit and duty of a new professionalism. Institutional reforms should align national efforts through joint planning especially in the education and health sectors, engage all stakeholders in the reform process, extend academic learning sites into communities, develop global collaborative networks for mutual strengthening, and lead in promotion of the culture of critical inquiry and public reasoning.

In addition to CMB, the Commission was supported by the Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and The Lancet. Further information on the Commission can be found at http://www.healthprofessionals21.org/.