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Teaching future doctors for modern health care

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Medical education over time — are we keeping up?

Medical practices — including the use of plants as healing agents, surgery for wounded and injured people, and the practice of observation and reasoning regarding disease — have been in effect for many thousands of years. However, medical schools are a more recent phenomenon. Believed to have opened in the 9th century, the Schola Medica Salernitana at Salerno in southern Italy is considered to be the first medical school but officially closed in 1811.1 The University of Bologna’s school of medicine and surgery, established around 1200, is the oldest such school still in existence.2 The first medical school in the United States, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, opened in 1765, and the Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney, which opened in 1856, is the oldest in Australia.

In this article, we review the evolution of education in medicine and the challenges that medical schools face today.

Medieval medicine was based on Galen’s theory of humours. It was not until the 18th century that physicians became more scientific, influenced by the scientific revolution with its developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology, anatomy and chemistry. Armed with knowledge, doctors in the mid-19th century, teaching…