ALI M. RASOOL
“To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
This was one of the most hair-rising quotations I noted from Escape Fire, a documentary I watched last week on America’s current and impending healthcare challenges. It denotes the petrifying facet of today’s medical scene, where doctors manipulatively dictate expensive procedures on their patients to make more money. Even more terrifying is to hear that many of the procedures that patients undergo are often unnecessary.
The documentary employed the example of stent insertions in cardiovascular patients to portray this idea. When patients complain of feeling fatigue and chest pain, doctors often implement the stent procedure, in which a metal brace is inserted to dilate the channel within the blood vessel by compressing plaque buildup. This is an expensive procedure that focuses solely on the current symptoms of the patient and not on preventing future cardiovascular issues. Its application is growing rampant in today’s hospitals. In fact, I witnessed three stent insertions within two hours of my time spent shadowing a cardiologist! Can it be that medicine has grown to become an industry of egotism and voracity? If so, we must not forget the innovative Era of Galen, when scholars utilized their passion for healing combined with their wisdom of the body to reform the lives of people in pain. We must not forget Primum non nocere, Latin for “above all do no harm” of the Hippocratic Oath. We are losing these time-worn fundamentals as medicine is becoming a business. So what can we do?
Escape Fire stresses that helping another person requires much more than heavy procedures and the curing of present symptoms. It demands a preventative approach, a change in the diet and lifestyle to prevent disease from occurring rather than waiting for them to occur and then fixing them. Seventy percent of health care costs are driven from people’s habits – not exercising or eating poorly for example. Take Safeway Insurance for an example. Safeway employers provide incentives for their employees to become healthy in a way that behavior becomes currency. To cut health care costs and save, the employee must follow a healthy lifestyle. Healthier employees mean smarter employees means a better, more competitive company. I think we’d have a healthier corporate America, if every company adopted this incentive-style approach to health insurance.
“It takes a village to make an unhealthy patient healthy.”
To help the patient, we’re going to need a team. We will likely need a nutritionist, therapist, and/or a clinical psychologist to work with the patient to improve his/her quality of life and not only cure symptoms for the time being. Medicine will become a much more collaborative effort, and this will require physicians who are willing to engage in teamwork to evoke the passion to heal.
To bring about such changes in our future physicians, the 2015 MCAT will be delivered to serve as the major assessment of social, interpersonal, and accepting characteristics.
I had the opportunity of speaking to Dr. J. Scott Wright, Executive Director of the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS) about the 2015 MCAT. Serving as the Director of Admissions for UT-Southwestern for 10 years and the Director of Health Professions at UT-Dallas, Dr. J. Scott Wright has a lot of experience dealing with issues in the pre-med realm. Voicing for all Texas medical schools, Dr. Wright emphasizes that it’s pretty clear that Texas medical schools are not concerned with whether the student takes the 2015 test or the current exam. “It’s up to the students, based on their timeline, coursework, family obligations, etc. to plan out when the optimal time will be for them to take the MCAT. Set your mind and take it as if it’s the one shot you have.”
For students who are concerned with whether not taking the new test will mar their chances, Dr. Wright says that, “Medical schools realize the MCAT is changing, but they’re not changing their policy about accepting MCAT scores for 5 years. So if student takes the old MCAT, it’s still good for 5 years.” His main message is for pre-med students to not overthink it. “If you are ready by January 2015 (last time to take current test), then take the test. If you’re not ready, don’t push it. Just wait and take the new one as long as you have the new appropriate coursework. It’s important students plan Biochemistry into their schedule, because it has prerequisites and cannot be taken as easily as Psychology and Sociology at a community college over summer.”
Chief among Dr. Wright’s guidance was not to rely on other students’ opinions and advice.
“Take advice from advisers here. And do not under any circumstances take any advice from Student Doctor Network! It’s a cesspool of misinformation. Call us or call the medical schools.”
I find it interesting where the future of medicine is leading us, and it all now makes much more sense why the MCAT is changing. Let’s keep in mind what we’re working towards. Above all do no harm.