Are you ready to save lives?

Having gone through some form of schooling for 20 years, you would figure you’d would learn just about everything you needed to know to do the job well. My education is mostly leading up to engineering and business school, so I understand technology, sort of. In full disclosure, I never went to med school.

In technology, it used to be the constancy of the next language or tool or IDE that you needed to learn. Now its the race for the next app. When I was in school we all learned sorting algorithms, which no doubt are useful but are they enough? From that to a place where I think about the mobile world, and the next wearable that will come along and change everything again has been a big stretch. Never has education felt quite so inadequate in giving us comfort that we can be successful. You go to school you learn the “basics” and may be some bleeding edge stuff, but for a vast majority who end up in the real world the learning happens on the job under fire to make a deadline. And you hack your way to some semblance of sanity, until it is someone else’s job to chase, and for you to watch the show from the managerial cheap seats.

In healthcare, a similar story plays out — the doctor probably went to school for a decade or more, and his/her head is crammed full of details of organ systems that may or may not be relevant for the practice. The chosen professional specialization has played out, and perhaps a few years later, emerged a knowledgeable well versed Oncologist. The day after graduation there is a daunting reality that likely all of these doctors are faced with. Unfortunately, the books didn’t keep up, and while school was in session — 20 new drugs, 85 combinations, 4 new pathways came into existence, that’s not even counting the new data for drugs already in the market. In school, no one ever covered — what to do with a pathway that you don’t know existed? And more importantly, how to keep up, while going through the arduous task of building and sustaining a practice.

Unlike technology, where if you didn’t know the latest craze it would be okay — there was no real consequence other than you being stuck in a dead-end job, in healthcare, not knowing the latest choices probably could mean a dead-end sooner than one would like. And worse, as you become more experienced, the world really expects you to keep up on all the new happenings, even things that aren’t even approved yet, as if it is not enough to keep track of the outcomes of other trials, now you may even need to invent a few trials that can maybe save a life or two. And in this race, there isn’t really time to read up on what’s next or think about what could be most often; as many are just about keeping their head above water with the daily practice. Like in any job, while the profession is all about saving or improving lives, there are a lot of odds and ends to take care of to be successful. Did you publish? Are you helping the hospital? Are you networking? Do you know what they just announced about OCM (Oncology Care Model)? It is impossible to keep up, and perhaps we need to find ways to help.

I have a lot of respect for someone who spends a long time preparing for their chosen profession. In all fairness, it is a significant length of time that med-school takes up, and every single one who has made it through has likely done more good than harm in this world. But I can’t help but ask, are we failing at getting them ready for the world in flux?

How will you save my life when what you learnt in the textbook 10 years ago is basically all superseded by something newer, or worse shown to be just ineffective?

Should I trust that you have been burning the midnight oil to keep up? Or perhaps spend time building something that will make me rely less on you? Calling Watson for help?

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