A career as a physician is exciting, rewarding - and, perhaps most importantly - exquisitely humbling. I am so fortunate to be a physician and to have had the opportunity to devote a good part of my career to training physicians.
But as proud as I am of our profession and its training, we must do more. And we must do it differently.
A well-documented fact over the last few decades has been the United States' high health care costs and its poor health outcomes compared to other industrialized nations. We cannot and should not be complacent with this level of care.
We also know that health outcomes in the U.S. are closely related to socioeconomic status. Yet in our peer nations, health care outcomes are better overall and often do not vary by income level. Even in this country, income-related disparities seem not to be as great when in a hospital setting; they are occurring in the community setting - where people live.
Over the last several decades, our profession has made great strides in hospital and clinic-based care; we must continue this trajectory. Simultaneously, we must also radically reorient our profession to the importance of what happens in the community. And we must do this through the training of our physicians.
Tomorrow's physicians must learn how to integrate all we have learned in our laboratories and clinical settings and apply it to community life. They must design and implement disease prevention and treatment plans that work as integrated parts of people's everyday experiences. This can only happen if our students are trained to think about health and illness-along with community, clinical and hospital care-as continuums that are all critical to a person's well-being. What's needed is for our physicians to be trained in communities in addition to clinics and hospitals. And they must be trained so that they will seamlessly function within a diverse, interdisciplinary professional team.
Being mindful of the effects that community places on health and disease puts additional demands on physicians while conferring additional rewards. This awareness is humbling; it inspires empathy and motivates altruism. Recognizing the impact community has on an individual's wellbeing reminds us how much more we can do-beyond diagnosing illness and prescribing treatments-to improve our patients' health outcomes.
The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University, working in partnership with our colleagues in the allied-health professions, will create a physician workforce that is capable of delivering excellent clinical care and optimal health to all individuals, irrespective of their socioeconomic status, race or geographic location.
Dr. Bonita Stanton
Founding Dean, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University
President, Academic Enterprise, Hackensack Meridian Health
Robert C. and Laura C. Garrett Endowed Chair for the School of Medicine Dean
Professor of Pediatrics
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