Reconstructing a lost tradition: the philosophy of medical education in an age of reform

Authors


Dr Christopher Martin, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John’s, Newfoundland A1B 3V6, Canada. Tel: 00 1 709 777 2182; E-mail: chris.martin@med.mun.ca

Abstract

Context  At the 100th anniversary of Abraham Flexner’s landmark report on medical education, critical reassessment of the direction of medical education reform evinced valuable interdisciplinary contributions from biomedicine, sociology, psychology and education theory. However, to date, philosophy has been absent from the discussion despite its long standing contribution to studies on education in other professions.

Methods  This discussion paper examines how the philosophical tradition can contribute to scholarship in medical education. It begins with an explanation of the scholarly tradition of philosophy of education and its role in thinking in education more generally. It then makes links between this tradition and the context of medical education in the Flexner era of education reform. The paper then argues that this tradition is necessary to the understanding of medical education reform post-Flexner and that doctors must benefit from an education derived from this tradition in order to be able to carry out their work.

Discussion  These foundations are characterised as a hidden, but always present, tradition in medical education. Two ways in which this ‘lost tradition’ can inform medical education theory and practice are identified: firstly, by the establishment of a public canon of medical education texts that express such a tradition, and, secondly, by the incorporation of a variety of ‘signature pedagogies’ exemplary of liberal education.

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