Here's an interesting story from the NY Times that appeared while we were out of town. It's about an idea that cycles around once a generation or so; medical schools that admit a few students who have not taken organic chemistry or physics, nor even their MCAT qualifying test. A study has found that the humanist med students did as well as the driven pre-med majors did. Perhaps they were even better, more sensitive and less techy docs.
These artsy admittees were good students, not just goof-offs as undergrads, but they were not cookie-cutter students after high GPAs come what may, or walk over whosoever's in the way. If any reader has trained pre-meds, we need say no more.
It's partly the system. The pre-meds know they need the courses, the grades, and the MCATs. Rote over reason is a well-known path to those ends. Universities treat their pre-meds (and other pre-health science students) like soldiers. Standardized interviews with faculty are done, so only one standard evaluation form need be sent out to all the schools the student applies to. To do well in this interview, the student has to have a record of 'service' activities--clearly padded for that purpose in many cases--and talk a good game about why they want to be doctors.
They know the game, and they game it! Of course, there are always the fraction of truly dedicated, devoted, honorable, broadly trained people who you want to help into the best med schools. You hope one of them will be carving on you when you undergo your next surgery.
Can the fraction of those kinds of people be increased? The idea of breaking down the gamed, cookie-cutter system seems like a good one. If students knew that thinking, not just knowing 'the answer', would be rewarded, they might be better students, more worthy of faculty time and effort. And they might be better judges of complex phenomena like health--better able to evaluate complex data and literature, and more likely to understand patients as people.
Of course, medicine is an advanced art, properly technical in many ways. But if the hyper-competitive, hyper-technology drive undergraduate student can be rewarded for thinking more synthetically, we might get better medical care, and they might have more broadly rewarding lives, too.