Since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care educators are rethinking how to prepare future generations to best serve their patients, and they shared ideas at the opening of the International Conference on the Future of Health Education held on the Coral Gables campus.
Although more doctors, nurses and other health professionals are graduating from more medical schools around the world today, there is still a large gap between this workforce and what is needed to meet the rapidly growing global patient demand .
That problem has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Julio Frank, president of the University of Miami and a world-renowned public health expert, on Wednesday at the opening of the International Conference on the Future of Health Education held at the Coral Gables campus.
“When you look at the numbers — even with the increase in doctors and nurses — the shortage is huge,” Frank said, adding that most health professionals are migrating to high-income nations, meaning low- and middle-income nations are struggling the most. “It will take all the resources to educate the health workforce we need in all countries. And we need to use technology to fill those gaps.”
Frank, along with Dr. Lata Chandran, executive dean and founding chair of the Department of Medical Education at the Miller School of Medicine, and Dr. Lincoln S. Chen, president emeritus of the Chinese Medical Council, were three of the lead authors of a report recently published in The Lancet on the changes needed to sustain health education post-pandemic and beyond.
Along with several other authors, they emphasized the need for a competency-based health curriculum that focuses on abilities, as well as programs that give students the chance to work with a range of health professionals and learn key collaborative skills so that they will be prepared for the workplace. They also highlighted the strengths of a blended curriculum that incorporates online and in-person lessons when they are most impactful.
“We owe it to ourselves to build a better normal,” Frank said. “This is the least we can do for the 20 million people who lost their lives in the COVID-19 pandemic, those who lost family members or the children who were orphaned by the pandemic.”
During the conference, health experts from the United States and the world gathered to join panel discussions led by Felicia Knaul, Miller School Professor of Public Health and Director of the University’s Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, and Dr. Barry Assenberg, who directs the Gordon Center for Simulation and Medical Innovation. They also attended presentations led by Dr. Henri Ford, dean of the Miller School, and Cindy Munro, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Studies, on the future of health education and new ways to teach health care.
In particular, Ford described the NextGenMD curriculum adopted by the Miller School in 2020, which focuses on a competency-based educational model. This includes integrating patient care earlier and encouraging students to pursue a chosen fellowship pathway so that they can combine their clinical experience with laboratory research during medical school.
Munroe described how the School of Nursing and Health Studies uses its simulation hospital research and training to help students gain experience treating patients in a range of medical settings — such as an emergency room, a typical hospital room, a one-bedroom apartment and even a bay for an ambulance.
Frank said he hopes the conference will serve as a chance for health educators to consider how they can attract new talent to health care and retain them at a time when the stress of the pandemic has caused many to leave the field. Specifically, he cites some of the recommendations from The Lancet publication, which also recommends teaching some “adaptive competencies” to health professionals, such as the importance of work-life balance, so that these people can thrive.
Chandran said she is excited about the first two days of the conference and has already learned many new ideas that she hopes to share with the faculty at the Miller School.
“We have global health leaders from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America coming together to reflect on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to sustain and develop health education programs with great principles like equity and equity , so that healthcare is accessible to all,” she said. “It was an amazing experience.”