When it comes to training today's doctors, the core curriculum of the nation's medical schools are consistent across the board; after four years doctors are trained to diagnose and treat disease. There's even guidance on bedside manner - but there's little attention focused on end of life care.
So how do doctors help terminal patients dealing with end of life issues? Students at Emory University School of Medicine will soon learn first hand as part of a new palliative care curriculum funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Palliative care focuses on improving the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. Here the goal is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of the disease; side effects caused by treatment, and psychological, social and spiritual problems related to the disease or its treatment. In palliative care well being of the patient's family are also considered.
"This is a great opportunity to focus on a critical area of patient care that has not traditionally been stressed in medical education," says Erica Brownfield, MD, FACP Associate Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and director of the medicine clerkship for third year medical students.
Emory University School of Medicine is one of six schools in the US chosen to develop and implement a palliative care curriculum for medical students through a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative. The Medical School Palliative Care Education Project stemmed from a mandate in 2000 by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education that all medical schools must teach about end-of-life care.
"The award given to Emory will be used to develop a required and elective palliative care training opportunity for third and fourth year medical students, and to establish a faculty development program in palliative care," says Dr. Brownfield. "With just six schools chosen, Emory is fortunate to have this rare opportunity."
Emory University was chosen from an applicant pool of 57 schools of medicine for participation in the program, which is led by the Medical College of Wisconsin. Other selected schools include Baylor College of Medicine, Northeastern Ohio Universities School of Medicine, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University and University of Louisville School of Medicine.