Friday 13th March keynote: Professor Abraham Verghese, Stanford University
Teaching the care in caring: changing methods, but unchanging principles
There has never been a more exciting time to practise medicine, with scientific breakthroughs coming at a breathtaking pace and new therapies curing once incurable diseases. At the same time, the delivery of healthcare even in resource-rich countries can be cumbersome and replete with bottlenecks, or else it can be close to non-existent in resource poor areas. In affluent countries, from the patient’s perspective, healthcare can seem uncaring, rushed and with an over-reliance on costly technology. The challenge to medical school educators wherever they are is to wed existing resources, advances in science, technology, and new pedagogic methods with the mandate to turn out caring and competent physicians.
This keynote will focus on these challenges and on what is unchanging in the healer’s art. We will examine the nature of the calling to medicine. Shifts in pedagogic methods will be examined, and the old compared to the new. The role and the meaning of ritual, we know from our colleagues in anthropology, is to bring about a transformation and to signal the crossing of a threshold. The bedside examination best exemplifies an important ritual in medicine: gathering data from the body, but also a ritual about connecting with another human being. The bedside exam can only be taught by apprenticeship if the skill is to survive. Peabody’s famous adage that the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient, is an example of what is timeless in medicine, a core value that must be restated and refined for the changing times, but also preserved.