What Your Doctor Didn’t Learn in Medical School

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that goes something like this: The wise physician prevents disease, the mediocre physician treats impending disease, and the inferior physician treats disease. By those standards, I and my medical colleagues across America are mediocre to inferior. One hundred years ago, Thomas Edison, one of America’s most prolific inventors, said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his [or her] patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and the cause and prevention of disease.” Sadly, we are still waiting for that physician to arrive.

We physicians don’t understand that we should be focused on teaching our patients how to create health. Back in the 1980s when I went to medical school, I received very little nutrition education and unfortunately that hasn’t changed much. Few medical schools provide a separate nutrition course for their students. The majority of students receive fewer than 25 hours of nutrition education during their four years of medical school. Although medical students may have started medical school with a habit of daily exercise, stress-reducing activities, and cooking their own meals, by the time they complete their medical training the vast majority no longer engage in those health-promoting activities. And that means they aren’t teaching their patients to adopt a nutrient-dense diet and lifestyle habits as the most important interventions for restoring health.

October 27, 2011

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