The significant reduction in the teaching hours for medical subjects such as anatomy in Australian medical schools has resulted in a pathetic state where medical students are unable to locate vital body parts. In some instances, they end up confusing one organ with another. In addition to the subject of anatomy, there has been a considerable reduction in the teaching hours for biochemistry, pathology, physiology and other basic sciences.
Some medical students even find it difficult to locate the prostate gland or describe a healthy liver. A medical student is said to have identified a part of the heart during a liver operation to be the patients liver.
In view of the above situation, the senior medical professionals have appealed to the federal Government to improve the standard of medical teaching in medical schools. They further pointed out to the impact of this situation on public safety. A 70 page submission has been forwarded to the federal Department of Education, Science and Training, urging reconsideration on the existing standards of medical education.
The vast expanding medical knowledge and the increasing focus on subjects such as genetics and new drugs pose additional constraints. In order to accommodate such new topics into the academic stream, old topics are being compromised.
'We will be turning out Dr Deaths out of our own medical schools. They (doctors) won't be competent to manage patients ... it's just appalling. Its part of the new educational dictums - 'don't put any stress on them (students) ... it doesn't matter if they don't know anything', 'commented Dr. Barry Oakes, a former anatomy teacher at Monash University.
'I think probably the old curriculum had too much emphasis on anatomy, but the new course has probably swung a little bit too far in the other direction. If you are assessing (a patient) who has had a stroke, if you do not have a good knowledge of the different parts of the brain, it can be difficult to assess which parts have been compromised and what treatment is warranted, ' said Michael Gardner, 22, a fifth-year medical student at Monash.
'It's the difference between people who have been brought up (through medical school) in a certain way, and want it to stay that way, and the people who are leading a revolution. I have never seen any evidence ... in any of our disciplines that would show we are deficient, 'said Lindon Wing, chairman of the Committee of Deans of Australian Medical Schools.
Previously, several hundred hours for teaching of anatomy was allocated. Whereas now, there has been a drastic change in the situation, the total number of teaching hours for anatomy has been reduced to 100 hours. However new innovative methods of teaching anatomy has been introduced.
'We now teach anatomy in a more sophisticated way, using electronic models, images such as X-rays and MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging). The fact that we have to reduce some of the things we taught in the past to make way for new areas of knowledge is a worldwide tendency,' said Professor Byrne.
With such new techniques, let us hope that Australian medical students enhance their anatomical knowledge.