Do Doctors Forget What They Learn In Medical School?

Do Doctors Forget What They Learn In Medical School?
Doctors

Do doctors forget most of what they learned in medical school? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Mitul Mehta, MD, Vitreoretinal (eye) Surgeon at UC Irvine, on Quora:

It depends on the individual and what field they are in. I think it is all in there somewhere, and having learned it the first time makes it a lot easier to recall it if needed. We are constantly learning in medicine.

Because medical technology is moving so fast, we never know what is going to be important in the future. I’m an ophthalmologist and so one would think it would not be useful for me to know about cell biology and the inflammatory cascade but then biologic anti-rheumatic drugs came out. Now I recommend that patients take Humira for vascular disorders. I typically have a rheumatologist manage it but that is mainly a time consideration rather than a knowledge gap.

In 2006 when we started using anti-VEGF (vasoendothelial growth factor inhibitors), it suddenly became important for retina specialists to remember their diabetes pathophysiology and determine that antiVEGF would be useful because these were all off-label indications but it was literally saving people from blindness.

We all go to continuing medical education lectures and get reminded of these things we forgot. It is a lot easier that way than it is to try to learn something that you have never heard of.

I would claim that people who complain the system is antiquated because they can always look it up were the people who didn’t do so well in medical school. In reality you can’t always look it up if you want to run an efficient clinic. Nowadays with costs being so high, doctors have to see more patients and they don’t have time to look everything up. Medical schools spend a lot of time teaching students how to do literature searches and reviewing the literature, so students are being trained to be lifelong learners.

Also if one just looks up the particular thing they are interested in, they will be lacking in context and open themselves up to confirmation bias. It is better to have a general understanding of a field and look up specifics than to know nothing and be a Google GOOGL +1.36% (or UpToDate) reliant doctor.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

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