Climate Change Curriculum in Med School Is a Waste of Time, Money

Climate Change Curriculum in Med School Is a Waste of Time, Money
A stock photo of doctor with stethoscope poses in Manassas, Va., on Oct. 19, 2009. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)
AnneMarie Schieber

It has never been easy to become a medical doctor, but today, the nation’s best and brightest have to do more than graduate college with straight A’s, ace their MCATs, and spend considerable time and money applying to med school.

If top students are fortunate enough to reach the Herculean goal of getting into medical school, they must then spend the next four years dodging progressive politics that are seeping into the medical school curriculum at an alarming rate. There is now a push—backed by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations—to add climate change to a medical student’s already packed course load. A coalition of nearly 200 medical schools supports this move.

The coalition claims climate change has unleashed an epidemic of disease to which doctors must now pay particular focus. What are these exotic illnesses, you may ask? Asthma, heatstroke, Lyme disease, allergies, and respiratory and cardiovascular conditions are some of the ailments listed by the leaders behind the “climate change in med school” movement. Climate change is “really the greatest health danger of our century,” said Mona Sarfaty of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate on Health.

Epidemics and disease have existed since the beginning of time, regardless of the political and social context. Imagine how ridiculous it would be to learn that doctors in the Middle Ages were required to pass a test on the intricacies of the feudal system prior to treating the plague!

There are any number of professionals—scientists, epidemiologists, climatologists, and so forth—whose job it is to figure out why disease is happening. Medical schools should be focused on the how of treating disease, not being indoctrinated with politically tinged subjects such as climate change.

When medical schools engorge their curricula with political fare, it comes at the expense of something else. For example, few doctors now learn anything about running a practice in today’s overpriced, over-regulated, and overly complex health care market. If doctors want to learn about operating a practice that can thrive outside of the clutches of insurance companies or government payers, they must learn it on their own.

Organizations such as The Benjamin Rush Institute, which promotes service to patients, not government, have run into numerous obstacles setting up chapters in medical schools. Medical students themselves have too much on the line to speak out. In the words of one student who spoke on the condition of anonymity, “business” is a dirty word on medical school campuses. “Even if there were professors willing to create and teach such a course,” the student said, “who would hire them or let them teach it?”

When they complete medical school and residency, physicians feel freer to discuss the narrow scope of their training, one that is hospital-centric. Physicians in direct primary care will tell you they had to learn about this model on their own. Management, negotiation, and finance are rarely covered at the residency level.

When primary care doctors aren’t taught how to make a practice thrive—one that can truly serve patients—they gravitate instead to fields where their considerable time and investment will pay off. The United States will face a shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032, and while the aging population explains part of the scarcity, there is no question medical schools and residency programs need to do more to make medicine an attractive profession.

Today’s doctors don’t relish spending 18-hour days coding and documenting patient care for third-party payers. They would be much better served by being exposed to new models that work in the evolving marketplace, where technology is changing the face of medicine, and consumer patients demand more value for their buck. Bolstering primary care is key; doctors on the front lines can nip complex and expensive ailments in the bud.

Because so much medical training is subsidized by the health care industry and government, it’s no wonder they have so much influence in determining what is and what isn’t taught in medical school. Hospitals, drug makers, and the AMA itself profit from the status quo, and the last thing they want is for doctors to go “rogue.” Big players, however, aren’t stuck with the bills from today’s astronomical health care costs.

There is no room today in our daunting health care system to be wasting time and money teaching doctors about climate change. As taxpayers and consumers who foot the bills, we should demand medical schools focus on something less “worldly” but more critical—the patient.

AnneMarie Schieber ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News and a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.