Medical Education 2011: 45: 95–106
Objectives One hundred years after the Flexner report remade medical education in North America, many countries are reviewing the purpose and organisation of medical education. In Canada, a national study is being undertaken to define important issues and challenges for the future of medical education. The objectives of this paper are to describe the process of conducting an empirical environmental scan at a national level, and to present the research findings of this scan.
Methods Thirty national key informant interviews were conducted, transcribed and coded to identify key themes. Interview data were triangulated with data sourced from 34 commissioned literature reviews and a series of national focus groups.
Results Ten key issues or priorities were identified and used to generate detailed review papers used by the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada to create a blueprint for the evolution of medical education. The new priorities have major implications for areas ranging from admissions, curriculum content, educational process and the need to articulate the purpose and responsibilities of medical schools in society.
Discussion This research provides a case study of how an empirical research approach can be used to identify and validate priorities for changes in medical education at a national level. This approach may be of interest in other countries.