Wanted: Fewer science nerds, more 'culturally competent' doctors
April 28th, 2011
11:52 AM ET

Wanted: Fewer science nerds, more 'culturally competent' doctors

The test that all medical school applicants take  could place greater emphasis on behavioral and social sciences, adding a new component and lengthening the test to seven hours, if proposed changes are accepted.

Members of the committee that proposed the changes to the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) say that this could help better identify applicants who have a greater understanding of behavioral and social factors that contribute to health problems.

“We want to broaden the knowledge base that students have about those factors that influence health,” said committee chair Dr. Steven Gabbe, who is also CEO of the Ohio State University Medical Center. “Yes, you must have solid base in science, but you have to understand the challenges.  You have to be culturally competent to understand socio-economic challenges in different groups face dealing with health problems.”The more a physician realizes social factors , the more it could help him or her understand health consequences, medical school officials said.

Of the MCAT’s four sections, two would remain strictly science, assessing how well the test taker solves problems about molecular, cellular properties as well as the physical, chemical, and biochemical properties of living systems.

The proposed changes require approval from the American Association of Medical Colleges' board of directors in February 2012.  If approved, the new exams would begin in 2015.

Here are the committee’s main recommendations:

- Update the exam’s two natural sciences sections to reflect current science and test how examinees solve problems in a way that helps demonstrate their scientific thinking and research skills.  The scientific content would include more current scientific knowledge, incorporating biochemistry and cellular molecular biology.

- Revise the current verbal section to assess the way test takers reason through passages. Test takers will have to read passages pertaining to health and could include cultural literacy, ethics, philosophy and population health.

The current writing section would be eliminated, under the new proposals.

- Add a new test section on the behavioral and social sciences concepts that lay the foundation for medical students’ learning about the human and social issues of medicine. The test would cover content covered in intro to sociology and psychology classes, which many students already take as requirements at their schools, said Karen Mitchell, MCAT director.

This portion would also be multiple-choice and test for competency in understanding ideas, such as behavioral changes, environmental factors on health, cultural differences and inequities, and how demographics or cultural socio-economic differences influence resources and well-being.

“What they learn in medical school are the ways social factors and behavior relate to health,” she said.  “What medical faculty want them to know is something about individual behavior, group behavior, culture, motivation, sensory -  that they come in with the basic vocabulary and understanding of the foundational knowledge.”

These proposals came after three years of outreach events and surveys, the gathering of advisory groups' opinions and more than 2,700 responses from students, staff, administrators and medical residents.

“That kind of input caused us to say, we need to at least test some of the principles of sociology, psychology, statistics, so that students are preparing to be physicians and taking the coursework required to be that knowledgeable,” said Ronald D. Franks, M.D., vice-chair of the committee and vice president of health sciences at the University of South Alabama.  “The purpose of the test helps identify those applicants who would be well-prepared of dealing with those aspects.”

This also pertains to diversity.

“It speaks to an awareness of cultures outside of the one they grew up in,” he said.  “We’re going to be more sensitive to those issues.”

Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing and frequent critic of standardized exams, said the proposals are headed in the right direction.

“Medical schools’ leadership, as reflected by AAMC, is indeed trying to change the types of students who are recruited for medical schools to emphasize more diversity of all sorts,” he said.  “There is a growing perception because of the emphasis of MCAT in medical school admissions, you’re getting science nerds - kids who are strong at mastering scientific facts, but are not so strong at dealing with patients, real human beings with real human problems, which have to be dealt with a broader array of disposition.”

“The kind of diversity they’re looking for are intellectual, cultural, racial.”

As statistics indicate, students from lower economic backgrounds tend to score lower on MCATs, which are crucial in determining medical school admissions.

Of nearly 80,000 medical students in the U.S, about 7% are African American and 8% are of Hispanic descent in a country that is increasingly more diverse. Asians and whites comprise nearly 80 percent.

Pre-medical students are not fretting about the possible changes yet.

"For students, this is not on their radar," said Paul Crosby, a pre-medical advisor at University of Kansas since 1996. "Advisers are starting to discuss it to some extent. The recommendations are fairly general. It's hard to react without knowing specifically how it would play out."

soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. Hotdog

    No thanks. When it comes to my doctor, I'll take the studious nerd at the top of the class over some 'diversity' quota student.

    April 28, 2011 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dom625

      That was exactly my thought! I would much rather my doctor be the nerd who knows precisely what's going on than some namby-pamby, feel-good guy who is more concerned with feelings than with medicine. I've dealt with doctors who had absolutely *no* bedside manner; they were very abrupt and matter-of-fact. But, I knew that they were among the best in the country and that they would much rather be practicing medicine than talking. Isn't that one of the reasons we have nurses?

      April 28, 2011 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      You are wise. I am a physician and I can tell you that the very best doctors are quite nerdy and have little "bedside manner." It's often the doctors who make their patients reassured the most who are the most dangerous.

      April 28, 2011 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
    • BethTX

      Sorry. I don't want the retard who understands my "needs as a woman", but has less of a clue about medicine. Let's drop all this touchy-feely BS and concentrate on things that matter.

      April 28, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
    • Sasha

      I second that. If I want to talk I'll get a counselor. Besides, I know my body better than anyone else. I think it is my call to tell the doctor that the headaches are coming from emotional problems. Why do we need this? Isn't it high time that we, as individuals, are more aware of our bodies and how our lifestyle influences our body, mind and soul? Do we really need yet another "professional" to tell us what we should know about ourselves? How about allowing individuals to be responsible for themselves. Goodness.

      April 28, 2011 at 18:29 | Report abuse |
    • As I expected

      The conservative knee-jerk reaction. First the false dichotomoy (because of course you can't be top of the class and still socially intelligent, that's an oxymoron!*), then the insinuation of affirmative action-style bias with the word "quota." Well done.

      *Which makes the valedictorian of my class an oxymoron, incidentally...

      April 28, 2011 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • what i thought

      The liberal knee jerk reaction is to punish those who study and work hard so they can impose their social engineering diversity quotas system on the masses. Anyone who doesn't like the leftist Orwellian world will be branded a racist or compared to Hitler

      April 29, 2011 at 18:56 | Report abuse |
    • Bucktooth

      What does that mean? A lot of your MD's are adding fuel to the fire by treating onlly symptoms! What's the cause of your high bllood pressure @ age 26..what's the cause of your Psoriasis/Eczema, etc. The top of the class is not always the answer..

      February 17, 2012 at 09:50 | Report abuse |
  2. Popeye

    With 2 doctors and 2 nurses in my immediate family I have the opportunity to candidly ask many physicians why they chose to be a doctor. Astonishingly the majority simply stated – "For the money and the life style I want to live". It'd be grand if there was a way to keep these people from ever getting their medical license to practice.

    April 28, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • otheym

      I didn't realize that people who want a good lifestyle and good income shouldn't become physicians in America.

      Perhaps they should do something else, like work in Major League Sports or Hollywood or Congress where lifestyle and love of money are truly appreciated.

      I think we should prevent greedy and lazy people from becoming doctors.

      Then we'd have a lot fewer doctors than we do now. That's a great idea!

      April 28, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      As a physician I can tell you that if you are seeking lifestyle and money there are far easier ways to do that. A career in medicine will disappoint people like that.

      April 28, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
    • physician response

      The world works on incentives. if you do not reward those for doing something both correctly and done well, then quality will surely fail. Every industry (retail, manufacturing, finance, technology) is like this. I'm sorry that you feel that physicians are overpaid...but frankly we work 80-105 hours/wk in private practice, and when you relate that to a per hour basis minus expenses...that is probably less than what you make per hour. Please be cognizant of the cost structure (education, time, and actual practice costs) associated with being a physician, and I think you'll feel otherwise.

      April 29, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
    • ceg3

      as a physician, most of us truly enjoy working with and helping people and derive great satisfaction from this. If you think the lifestyle of taking call, getting sued, watching people die, and being over regulated is desireable, then maybe you should give it a try.

      April 29, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse |
  3. Linda aron

    What rubbish! I would infinitely prefer a medically competent one.

    April 28, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • madisoncnn

      Hi, readers. To clarify– the amount of science in the test remains the same. It's not decreasing the scientific rigor. They are proposing the addition of a social science/behavioral section to the test.

      April 28, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • what i thought

      What happens when this diversity program fails to get more blacks and Hispanics into the medical field? I'd take competence over bedside manners any day.

      April 29, 2011 at 19:00 | Report abuse |
  4. Williams, MD

    As a native born American physician who works at the VA, I witness routinely the consequences of physicians practicing without cultural competence. Namely, foreign physicians who treat and disproportionately who run the VA with minimal "cultural competence." Such foreign physicians (supervisors) treat everyone below them as sweatshop employees while a too-sizable percentage of foreign born/trained line-physicians treat the veterans as cattle until said physicians can earn the right to practice on the rest of society.

    April 28, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joseph

      The MCAT only applies to medical college admissions testing for American educated applicants. Foreign medical graduates are not subject to that test. I agree, however, that you are absolutely right about the lack of "cultural competence" of foreign trained physicians. I suspect that this PC gesture is intended for a different kind of cultural incompetence.

      April 28, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
    • john

      As a physician who did med school overseas but has been in practice for years I find your comment downright racist and offensive. Cultural competence has nothing to do with being "Foreign doctor" and has everything to do with personal ethics. I know of countless "Native US Physicians" who are jerks in terms of dealing with patients, downright greedy and dont care two cents about their patients.

      April 28, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
    • Loren

      I completely agree with you! Not all foreign doctors are bad, but there is something to be said regarding cultural differences. I have worked with all types of doctors from all over the world and while a lot of foreign doctors are fine, the cultural divide can sometimes prove dangerous for patients. They can have trouble reading social cues and sometimes even understanding the problem the patient is having. I am certainly not against foreign physicians, my personal physician is Indian and he is wonderful! It's just there should be a level of cultural competence doctors should have to practice medicine in the U.S.

      April 28, 2011 at 23:56 | Report abuse |
    • renu

      Dr.Williams, I am a foreign grad who CHOSE to work at the VA, not because I needed a waiver. I did it because I didn't want to be in the "business" of medicine which is the case in most private practices. Why aren't more American grads working at the VA? Let me guess. The VA doesn't pay half as much as private practice. Agreed, some FMGs still practice the way they did in their native countries where you could see over 50 patients a day and being polite comes second to delivering care. Asking that people actually "work" when they are at work does not mean running a sweat shop! I have seen a lot or people "taking it easy" because its the VA when it should actually be the opposite. You are rendering a service and not doing anyone a favor.

      April 29, 2011 at 10:13 | Report abuse |
  5. Sir Quenn Fonchey

    Just we need, more affirmative action doctors.

    April 28, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NobodySpecial

      So, how long have you been with the KKK?

      April 28, 2011 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
    • Cody

      So how come if somebody doesn't like a quota system that only puts unqualified people into positions, they are automatically deemed by the left to be members of the KKK?

      September 30, 2013 at 13:41 | Report abuse |
  6. Patient 2897

    As a patient who has more than once walked away from a doctor's office with urgent questions not only unanswered, but unasked–I whole-heartedly approve. It's the reason I dread going to some doctors–what a waste of time and money if you don't feel comfortable putting your most serious concerns on the table. Some people may feel comfortable letting it all "hang out" regardless of who they're in front of, but I personally don't feel the same. A doctor without sensitivity and social competence is pretty much useless, to me. "Culturally competent" doesn't mean stupid, and they're not throwing away the old test–they're updating it. Forcing doctors to be competent in *more* ways. To those who protest–why would you want a doctor who was less qualified in *any* respect?

    April 28, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BethTX

      If you ever walk out of a doctor's office with questions unanswered, that's your own fault. Have the balls to speak up and take responsibility for your own care. If one doctor doesn't answer your questions, find another.

      April 28, 2011 at 17:25 | Report abuse |
    • Sasha

      Assertiveness training will take of that for you. Don't wait for others to change what you can change yourself. Why on earth are you allowing others to do this to you?

      April 28, 2011 at 18:32 | Report abuse |
    • Patient 2897

      Oh, right, if you're shy or socially reserved, screw you. You deserve to suffer medical problems. It's your own fault that doctors are dismissive of your questions to the point where, having asked one or two, you don't want to ask a third.

      And I don't know how many options your health care offers you, but personally, my choice of doctors is not unlimited. I don't live in a highly populated area; I take what I can get.

      It's not like they're proposing taking science off the test, folks. They're adding a dimension. A dimension that some of you apparently super-aggressive (oops, I mean assertive) folks find unnecessary. Fine, but don't deride everyone else who sees it as a benefit. Smart *and* caring? I don't see how anyone can see that as a bad thing. Compassion is not a weakness–and having it surely does not negate one's intellectual competence. Thanks.

      April 28, 2011 at 18:52 | Report abuse |
    • Sharon

      I agree. I have a friend who was introduced to PCP. He went to the doctors office because he thought he was sick but really he was feeling the effects of that drug and since he never tried it before (and I don't know why he did then) he had no clue what was going on and was too stuck to say it. The doctor had no clue and thought he was just sick. I am not a doctor but I can tell when a person is high and especially on something like PCP. I am not asking for a doctor to have a PhD. in drugs but at least have some common sense and some of these doctors act like they don't have a clue nor do they care to have one. I am going to school to be a pediatric nurse and I guess I can say that perhaps this is what nurses are for, so they can do the actual diagnosing and the doctor can write a prescription...sheesh..that is wrong in so many ways...

      April 28, 2011 at 21:23 | Report abuse |
    • K

      I've dealt with a number of male doctors who "know" that all women are just looking to quit their jobs, and therefore, the reaction to my symptoms was some variation on "if you don't want to work, just quit" rather than looking for the physical cause. One, I learned later, diagnosed every divorcee with "post divorce depression", regardless of symptoms, and verbally abused each of us "I'm not going to help you get alimony" - even those women who'd been the sole breadwinner and therefore were going to be the one paying alimony rather than the one receiving it.

      It took years of "doctor shopping" before I was taken seriously and given proper treatment ... at which point the damage was done and the condition is permanently disabling. All because these doctors don't understand that some of us are careerwomen, not scheming on getting a husband to support us.

      April 29, 2011 at 05:54 | Report abuse |
    • Bucktooth

      Agreed! Some cultures will not visit white doctors because of their distant nerdness! Your 8 minutes are up and take this drug!

      February 17, 2012 at 09:54 | Report abuse |
  7. Stephen

    Another day and yet another hit job on doctors by CNN. Where's the article about "culturally competent" lawyers?

    April 28, 2011 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sasha

      There is such a thing as "competent lawyer"????

      April 28, 2011 at 18:35 | Report abuse |
  8. ctb67

    If I have to sit through one more appointment with an indian doctor telling me that if I excersise four hours a day and band backwards at the waist my asthma will go away I am gonna scream....THEY are the ones that should take that cute fuzzy training. They ignore what they want and are not even listening. I am skinny minny and don't smoke...No corticosteroid shot, just bend backwards and all will be doing you well.

    April 28, 2011 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jorge

      Hey, maybe there's something to his advice and you just need to open your mind. I've been treated by countless American-trained doctors for my sinus problems and frequent UR infections. All they did was pump me with antihistamines and tell me that I had to live with it or get painful, expensive surgery. Finally this Pakistani woman got a shot at me and ran a bunch of tests, she told me that I had a deviated septum that was affecting my sinus drainage and aggravating my sleep apnea, which she said that I also had. Her remedy? She introduced me to Neti pots and UR irrigation and put me on CPAP. Within two months the congestion, migraines, constant exhaustion, chronic bronchitis and heart palpitations were GONE. I think you should give your Indian doctor a fair shake, but hey, it's your health not mine.

      April 29, 2011 at 11:15 | Report abuse |
  9. Lizard

    Feh! When I'm sick, I want Dr. House, not Dr. Phil!

    April 28, 2011 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NobodySpecial

      You sure about that? He lost patients too, you know. And he takes more far-fetching chances that is keen on medical Russian Roulette.

      April 28, 2011 at 21:50 | Report abuse |
  10. Lawrence E

    You can't teach empathy. Most doctors are in it for the money. Just be happy if you get one who will not harm you.

    April 28, 2011 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kid doc

      As a pediatrician who went into medicine to take care of kids, and works with many amazing doctors who also love taking care of kids, this comment makes me incredibly sad.

      April 29, 2011 at 02:00 | Report abuse |
    • what i thought

      Don't be sad. He's just a typical liberal who hates doctors and loves lawyers.

      April 29, 2011 at 19:03 | Report abuse |
  11. chuchingirl

    both things are needed in a physician: the nerd and the culturally competent component...... if the physician is not able to communicate adequately with the patient, he/she won't be able to figure out and treat whatever needs to be treated, leading to many unnecessary tests/labs and wrong diagnosis.

    April 28, 2011 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Drdev

    well as a physician i totally agree that a 'competent' Physician must also be the 'Compassionate' one . There's nothing racist in it , its just understanding your patients better .

    April 28, 2011 at 23:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. ?

    In the end, it is science and medicine that cures illnesses and not cultural competency or friendliness. Most people see their doctors less than a handful of times a year, and even then, they see the doctor for less than an hour at a time. Do you really need a friendly doctor to joke with you and make you laugh those few hours a year? I say be approachable, friendly, and professional, but don't forget that your main job is not to be your patients' friends, it is to cure them of their illnesses. I can get cheaper "friendship" from my real friends who I don't even have to pay insurance and fees to just to see me. If I'm paying that much money for a visit, I want to be sure the doctor knows what he/she is doing.

    Also, the MCAT should NOT get rid of the writing section. It is a pretty true stereotype that many of these "science nerds," myself included, focus their lives on science and often neglect or are poor at English. A basic command of language is important for communication, publications, and for reading scientific literature. Even better, an eloquent physician, in my opinion, seems to be able to get patients to trust their diagnosis quicker and more often (If you sound smart, people will think you're smart). Even though I agree the MCAT was tough and ruins the dreams of tons of premeds because it is difficult, it is a necessary evil so that we can better be sure that the doctors we produce are competent doctors, avoiding tons of malpractice suits. Don't enough people complain nowadays that doctors don't have a strong enough grasp over basic sciences anyways?

    And for those who don't understand or know of the medical school application process, a lot of schools require you to write a diversity essay explaining your cultural competency. If you aren't culturally competent, you can still apply, but if you are culturally competent, you have a better chance at getting an interview for that school because you are more well rounded than those who aren't. Also, I have been asked to explain my diverse background, and talk about diversity at most of the interviews I have been to (maybe it's because I have a very diverse background, but it seems like many people get asked these questions). I feel like the MCAT should remain a filter for competency, and the medical school secondary essays and interviews should continue to act as filters to choose "humans" for acceptances. All the filters and tests to make sure accepted medical students are humans and are smart already exist. We don't need more, and we shouldn't detract away from the importance of science. (To me, the article seems to say they want fewer science nerds. Some people are saying that the article wants doctors who are science nerds and are culturally competent, but wouldn't those people be labeled as science nerds too then? The article seems to imply that we should not place so much emphasis on science, but should instead care more about cultural competence in my opinion).

    It should also be noted that affirmative action very much exists in the medical school application process. Underrepresented Minorites (URMs) get more financial aid, and on average, have a higher acceptance rate than someone who is Caucasian or Asian with the exact same extracurriculars and stats. The AAMC releases a chart for acceptance rates for medical school applicants each year depending on their gpa and MCAT score, but they release a second chart for Hispanics and African Americans alone. It's very clear from comparing the two charts that URMs have much higher acceptance rates than all the "others" who have the same stats. Placing more emphasis on cultural competence would be unfair for all the other groups.

    April 28, 2011 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • doight

      I didn't do that well on the MCAT and I was turned down from many Canadian Medical Schools. I finally got into one of the top schools in Canada and graduated 10/126, with one of the highest marks on the government qualifying exam in the country. I like to make patients's laugh because it puts them at ease. I am also considered to be an accurate diagnostician. My writing skills aren't that great but I articulate very well. I consider myself to be a very competent Physician. I look after patients in the ER, hospital and clinic.

      My point is that the MCAT is an American Industry that makes money on often being a useless barrier into medical school. In my case it did nothing to predict how well I would do or what type of doctor I would become. It seems to be accepted in this article that the MCAT is a necessary tool. It also seems to be accepted,by many, that a good doctor has to be cold and serious.

      I think a good idea would be to have the Medicine Olympics where groups of Physicians trained in different parts of the world compete to see which country produces the most cost effective, accurate and best patient rated physicians. I would love to compete against my American cousins.

      Let's get it on CNN!

      April 29, 2011 at 09:39 | Report abuse |
  14. Christina

    In my experience, the best doctors, ESPECIALLY for female issues, are former military, and quite honestly, older men–I am at the point of ripping my hair out at the newer generation, who seem to want to write a prescription for EVERYTHING, and don't really listen.

    April 29, 2011 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Laura Gomez

    As a patient who has received subpar treatment from doctors who lacked any ability or desire to converse with a patient, I think this would be great. People are not textbooks and our emotions, stress levels, etc definitely play into our health and even in our own ability to correctly identify what is wrong with us. In a perfect world physicians would be smart and good at reading people for lifestyle and behavioral clues. Some basic knowledge about nutrition would be helpful too. I had a nerdy doctor tell me to make sure I took Folic acid during pregnancy and when I said I thought it was in my b-complex she told me that she didn't think it was a b-vitamin, which it is. It really doesn't inspire much confidence when any expert misses the obvious, whether it be the other name for something they routinely recommend to their patients or the fact that their patient seems really reserved and may be withholding information that is uncomfortable for them to share. People are not just a list of lab tests, that approach to medicine only catches illnesses once they have progressed to an ultra obvious state.
    The best doctors are the ones who listen to their patients, the other kind, no matter how "smart" are just running a health factory-cheap and quick.

    April 29, 2011 at 00:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. stormchaser

    Intelligence and cultural/social/psychological competence aren't mutually exclusive. In medicine you need both and I've seen a lack of the later kill people so don't think it isn't important. There are still a lot of unknowns in medicine. Medicine is still as much art as it is science and sometimes it takes the art part to get to the science part. Just being textbook smart won't get you there.

    April 29, 2011 at 02:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tron

    This new section is supposed to boost the scores of the lower economic group just so they can have a chance at getting in the field. That's great. If people cant meet the high standards then we'll just lower it! Is the bar too high? Don't worry! This is America where if you keep failing long enough we'll simply lower the bar.

    April 29, 2011 at 05:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kevin

      Tron sounds like the arrogant insensitive nerd that they are trying to replace. No wonder he sounds sour. I guess he doesn't want to raise the bar in areas other than science for doctors.

      April 29, 2011 at 10:36 | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      Hey, when folks in the know with money can't get answers to their medical problems here in the 'states guess where they sneak off to? CUBA!!

      April 29, 2011 at 10:58 | Report abuse |
    • Cardiology

      I dont agree with that statement. As someone who does not do well on standardized exams, the SAT/ACT and MCATs were difficult exams for me however I graduated with a 3.98/4.0 in college and eventually did progress onto medical school and then matched into one of the top internal medicine residency programs in the country. The test does not define the physician.

      April 29, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
  18. ???????????

    As someone who is about to graduate from medical school I can honestly say the MCAT is a test that does not accurately show how good a physician a person can be. I did pretty subpar on the MCAT but managed to get into medical school. While in school I flourished. The actual subjects covered in medical school were a lot more interesting than the MCAT subjects. I feel like training a culturally competent doctor occurs during medical school. If you are around physicians in medical school who make this a priority you will learn by example. My medical school is amazing at teaching this. People who come from all backgrounds are treated with equality. I have definitely learned well and I expect I will be a mentor for medical students when I become a practicing physician on how to be culturally competent.

    April 29, 2011 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • premed

      What medical school do you attend? Sounds like the one for me.

      April 29, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
  19. M.D. to be

    It doesn't matter how much you try and "test" people on certain subjects, some things you just can't teach/learn.

    April 29, 2011 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Cardiology

    As both a patient and a physician, I think it is important to be culturally aware as well as intelligent. All too often, medical schools and residency/fellowship programs select candidates that have the propensity to do basic or translational research and not the candidates who have the ability to become excellent physicians. A true physician is one who has the ability to combine both qualities and apply those skills to help individuals who themselves feel vulnerable and unknowing in any situation. A physician who cannot communicate is much like a grade school teacher who cannot teach a class. Patients need to be able to make informed decisions before they jump into any type of care or procedures. As a person, who attended a very reputable residency program in Dallas, TX, my chairman was actually a southern preacher on the side and often spoke to his residents these words, "When you put on your white coat, you cover your own problems and inadequecies, and become an angel of mercy and deliver great medical care with the best of your ability." The essence of medicine is to teach, heal, and to discover (University Hospitals of Cleveland's mission statement) and all too often, in this age, we are selecting candidates to only discover rather than applying that intelligence to what really matters (as exemplified by the numerous un-needed scientific journals).

    On the side, MCAT needs to redo the verbal section because medical textbooks are not written with ellipses and are actually a lot clearer than the verbal section used for testing ... ridiculous.

    April 29, 2011 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Mike

    8% Hispanic? Hogwash! Most of our Hispanics are illegals or anchor babies. What we need for illegals isn't doctors, it's prison camps.

    April 29, 2011 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jorge

      You must live in the sticks in some aggie state, try New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Illinois, east Pennsylvania, New York or southern California. Good chance that the cop who nails you for speeding and the bailiff who takes your money will both be Hispanic...

      April 29, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse |
  22. Jorge

    Nope, I'd rather have a doctor who understands the particularities of the health issue demographics of Latinos and how they pertain to me than some newbie, generic, cookie-cutter nerd that doesn't understand why American style food constipates me. Either that or I'll just find a Hispanic doctor.

    April 29, 2011 at 10:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Racist

      How about you stay in Mexico Jorge?

      April 29, 2011 at 22:54 | Report abuse |
  23. The_Mick

    The well-regarded surgeon who repaired my Achilles tendon tended to be abrupt and say things like: "I'm prescribing you three percoset tablets. Take one each of the first three nights to get to sleep IF you need it. If you feel pain night four, take a Tylenol and deal with it." Percoset is known to be addictive: I wish more doctors had that kind of mindset! When my rotator cuff bothered me a decade later, I went right back to him without hesitation and right after the operation got: "That sling on your arm is to get you home. Throw it away when you get there. Then undress, climb in the tub, turn on the shower, let the warm water run over your shoulder, and walk your hand up and down the wall in front and to the side 20x each. It will be very painful but will keep scar tissue from forming. Do that 2-3 times a day until I tell you otherwise." The shoulder's fine today.

    April 29, 2011 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. SEM

    The most disturbing part of these revisions, I find, is the elimination of the writing section. Doctors, just like any other professionals, need to be able to communicate effectively in written and oral formats (in addition to "knowing the science" and being culturally aware). Eliminating the writing section, ostensibly under the delusion that "doctors don't really need to know how to write," is scary, dangerous, and yet another example of this country's science/math tunnel-vision when it comes to strengthening education.

    April 29, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. illuminated

    I am a pre med student getting into the application process, i take the mcat in august. I played football in college and love science. I consider myself well rounded, and have a firm belief that if you do anything in life- do it to the best of your ability. I am not a doctor but have a strong desire to be the best physician i can be if given the oppurtunity. --This being said I see no problem adding this new factor to the test, and quite frankly who would have one? Encouraging the same level of "nerdiness" and increasing communicaiton skills of the doctor.....no brainer!

    BUT......lets be real. This will be a standardized test trying to gauge an inviduals cultrural competence...i fear problems with this component. Isnt the interview and essay portion supposed to be doing this? Also, im italian...not mexican or indian or black..... but a person of any race given enough hard work and will power/desire can become a great doctor-intelligence and cultural competence is a great combo nothing to argue.....so lay off the mexicans

    April 29, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Let the Market

    Dear Everybody complaining about getting rid of "science nerds",

    Let your beloved market handle things. Do you want a culturally incompetent, MCAT excelling doctor? Pay for them! I'm sure they'd appreciate the extra money - but make sure you get their MCAT science scores first. Also, ask them if they went to a medical school that replaced Anatomy with Macarena, Dance for the Ages, since you really never know nowadays.

    April 29, 2011 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Racist

    Diversity = less white people.

    April 29, 2011 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      You mean, less brown people. That is basically the majority in medicine nowadays.

      May 14, 2011 at 02:29 | Report abuse |
  28. How to Test?

    How exactly can a multiple choice test accurately measure one's level of cultural competency? And does cultural competency also predict cultural sensitivity, ensuring that the culturally competent students accepted into medical schools because of these new changes to the MCAT care enough to apply their diversity to their work? I've had to read tons of books from english classes that I didn't care for or didn't agree with, but on a test, I would put the answer I know the professor wanted to see. How can you make sure people are studying cultural competency to be diverse and understanding of other cultures instead of doing it just to pass the MCAT? I predict Kaplan and tons of other test-prep companies are going to jump on the new section and just teach you to say and give the answers that they want to hear so this new proposed section of the MCAT doesn't look like it will be a good measure of anything in my opinion. Furthermore, the removal of the writing section will hurt us even more in the end because honestly, the writing section of the test was not that bad. Sure, doctors don't have to have the biggest vocabulary or sound the smartest, but they need to be able to think fast. I think the writing section was a great way to measure how well we can think and how quickly we can formulate a plan/thesis that makes sense. These writing sections aren't graded like your normal English class papers. The grading is very sensitive to the fact that you are being made to write two essays in a very short amount of time.

    As a last note, I feel like the last part of the article mentioning statistics on the percentages of different races in the medical field was highly uncalled for. You don't have to be a minority to be culturally competent. And just because you are a minority, it doesn't necessarily mean you are culturally competent. Asians are minorities in America, but just because they are overrepresented in the medical field, all the diversity and cultural competence they had to grow up with doesn't matter as much because statistics like these want to make medical schools push their diverse backgrounds aside for the lesser represented groups. I feel like these statistics are unfair to certain groups. Cultural competency is a good thing for doctors to have, but their race should not matter. Physicians should be judged on their knowledge of science, approachability, and cultural sensitivity, but race should never matter. I don't care what race my doctor is as long as he/she is competent enough to treat me, making my money well spent.

    April 30, 2011 at 00:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. dofacc

    You need to go to a Dr that is competent, up to date, and practiced. You hire a physician for their medical abilities, not for their personal humor. It takes a lot of hard, constant work to gain and maintain the medical skills we take for granted. This pretty much eliminates the time and energy required to become socially fluent and flexible.

    If you want touchy feely, go to a massage therapist, if you want medical care to go to a trained, analytical, Dr who may have the personality of a 2×4, but knows medicine.

    May 1, 2011 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Collegestudentguy:P

    Is anyone actually reading the article? They are not replacing pre-medical/medical requirements with social sciences, they are ADDING a more diverse section to the medical curriculum. I have no idea where some people are getting "I'd rather not have a doctor that doesn't know anything". A good balance or taste of social/cultural schools could benefit any profession like this. Reading comprehension? elementary school anyone? 😛

    May 13, 2011 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. M2

    The MCAT is a good indicator of the science knowledge necessary (and somewhat of the communication skills, though anyone who's taken the MCAT knows the verbal reasoning and writing sections are a little ridiculous and far-fetched. Probably more applicable than the GRE's English section though; at least it's not all similes and knowing big words that nobody else knows). The interview is generally a great way to ensure future docs have passable social skills. Of my class of 200+, almost everybody has both science and social intelligence. Are there a few that must have had incredible MCAT scores but are completely awkward? Are there a few that may not be quite as scientifically smart but are the warmest and most caring people you'll ever meet? Sure. But the admissions process does weed out most people who, for one reason or another, wouldn't be good doctors. I don't think adding another section to the MCAT is going to change anything, because pre-meds will jump through any hoops necessary. I also don't think it'll give admissions officers any new information about applicants that can't be learned from an interview.

    Besides that, I agree with whoever said med school is where doctors will learn how to be doctors. Obviously the science part, but moreso how to function as a doctor. I've only finished one year, and I'm a totally different person now than when I started. It's intangible, but med school has absolutely changed me in a way that taking an intro sociology or psychology class can't.

    June 15, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.