President Wilson’s address at AAMC: ‘Be good to medicine’

November 12, 2018

M. Roy Wilson, M.D., president of Wayne State University and chair of Association of American Medical Colleges Board of Directors, called for reinstating the humanities in medical education and in medicine during his address at the Learn Serve Lead 2018 annual meeting in Austin, Texas.

Wilson recalled a lesson (see video) from a clinical faculty member in medical school that has stuck with him throughout his career: “Be good to medicine, and medicine will be good to you.”

Wilson explained the deeper meaning he found in that phrase and emphasized the importance of respecting medicine, and said that in turn, medicine will “provide many rewards – not just financial security and professional standing, but deep career satisfaction.”

While that lesson was given to Wilson nearly 40 years ago, he feels it still applies to today’s modern-day construct. He explained:

• Truth must be the primary driver. Truth must inspire physicians individually and collectively.

• Medicine must remain mission focused, not profit focused. To be good to medicine, doctors must steadfastly affirm their commitment to better health for their patients and for their community as priority No. 1.

• Medicine is neither science nor art. It is both.
Emphasizing the third point, Wilson said that medicine requires a holistic view of all human knowledge, not just medical science. Exposure to arts and humanities can lead to more humanistic physicians, and decrease career burnout and dissatisfaction.

Wilson recently co-wrote an article published in Academic Medicine, the Journal of the AMMC, titled “Socially Accountable Academic Health Centers: Pursuing a Quadripartite Mission.” The perspective proposes a new framework for academic health centers to expand upon their traditional tripartite mission of education, research and clinical care to include explicitly a fourth mission of social accountability. Through that fourth mission, comprehensive community engagement can be undertaken, addressing social determinants of health and measuring the health impact of interventions by using a deliberate structure and process yielding defined outcomes.

“Being good to medicine means – despite the relentless advances of technology and science – embracing the arts and humanities as fundamental to the preparation of physicians and preserving humanism in our profession,” Wilson said.

The final leg of Wilson’s speech was about on a topic deeply personal to him – fostering diversity.

“We must do more to ensure that all segments of the public are included in our profession and that biases, even if unintended, do not systematically exclude persons of certain population groups,” he said.

He spoke of gender disparities in medicine, saying that more must be done to ensure that women have equal access to postgraduate training, are recognized equally for awards, that their pay is equal to that of their male counterparts, and that they are supported for and promoted to the higher academic professional and administrative ranks.

Wilson also discussed one of the great strengths of American society: the diversity of its people. He shared that, as a minority physician himself, he believes academic medicine must do more to ensure that underrepresented minorities are represented throughout all of the “wonderful opportunities” afforded by medicine.

At the Wayne State University School of Medicine, Wilson developed a strategy to improve the pipeline of underrepresented students trained in the biomedical sciences. He formed a coalition of Detroit-based universities and colleges to launch the National Institutes of Health-funded Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity, or BUILD, program, and created Wayne Med-Direct, a program unlike any other in Michigan. Wayne Med-Direct is designed to attract top-tier underrepresented students with an interest in battling health disparities. Developed in 2015 in line with the university’s mission to develop a pipeline of high-quality students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, the program guarantees 10 eligible high school students each year advanced admission to the School of Medicine, four years of paid undergraduate tuition, four years of paid undergraduate room and board, and four years of paid medical school tuition.

He concluded by speaking about medical school commencement and how Hippocrates considered the imparting of knowledge to followers as an essential part of the physician oath.

“As a group, I find our medical students and residents to be remarkable – smart and committed, imbued with a sense of justice and a genuine desire to help people or advance biomedical knowledge. Or both,” Wilson said.

“I implore academic medicine at all levels – collective, at the institutional level, clinical department level, specialty level and individual faculty level – to embrace its responsibility to transmit to all learners a sense of hopefulness, optimism and empowerment, and to project an appropriate sense of gratitude for the incredible rewards that come to those who practice medicine.”