The debates and rebuttals continue regarding standford’s newest policy to add 200 hours of study to their medical school curriculum. Do I really have the energy tonight to provide a rebuttal for each point made? No, not really, but I will say that if Dr. Bradley hadn’t minored in film in his pre-clinical years, perhaps he wouldn’t be where he is now. If I hadn’t been able to distract myself from the tedium of preclinical study, I might not have finished. Would it be better for me to have quit medical school to volunteer full-time in a homeless clinic? Or for Doctor Bradley to have quit school to become a third thumb along with Siskel’s and Ebert’s? Of course not, that’s silly.

I will say that I’m certain that Stanford has other motives aside from “encouraging idealism” which as one of Dr. Bradley’s commenters pointed out, really isn’t realistic. Research activities bring in research dollars which raises a school’s national ranking. So if they’re graduating high quality students who are also contributing to their NIH grant income, why wouldn’t they want to push that agenda a little further?

On a different note, preclinical students have more time that clinical students, who in turn have more time than residents to pursue non-academic activities. Early exposure to these certainly influences later career activities. Early exposure, however, does not preclude students from pursuing any particular specialty or subspecialty.

Some critics are worried that first year students are being forced to “specialize” in their first year without any clinical experience. Although I am not a Stanford student, my medical school has similar outlets for research and certification programs (note that these pre-date Stanford’s move by several years! My school rocks.) in fields and topics that are ancillary to medicine…health policy, imformatics, underserved, women’s , geriatrics…these are not medical fields of specialization…they are ancillary interests that will augment any physician’s carreer regardless of specialty.

There is also a huge gulf between “bench research” and clinical medicine. So-called physician scientists are needed to bridge these gaps and bring new treatments to light and to develop clinical trials to advance the field of medicine. The type of research that standford seems to encourage will help fill these types of physician niches.

Finally, there are 126 allopathic medical schools in the United States (plus canadian schools and of course, osteopathic schools) that provide prospective applicants with a full range of curriculum options. It’s your own stupid fault if you choose a school that requires 200 extra hours of research if all you want to do is graduate in family practice and move to the countryside…

In summary…there are pros and cons, but students have choices. The only ones with a right to complain would be previously enrolled standford students if they are forced to carry out their required hours. Otherwise, either keep your mouth shut, or don’t apply to stanford!