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Darrell Kirch: Why Medicine Needs to Embrace Change


Our success hinges on our ability to embrace change, says Darrell Kirch, M.D., president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). What will move us into the future, Kirch believes, is not more resources but rather a willingness to create a unified vision and a readiness to move forward into new models.   


The ability to embrace change, in my view is the single, most important critical success factor for academic medical centers. 

Many people say what limits us is the amount of funding we have or how many faculty members we have. But in my experience what really limits us is our readiness to accept change, embrace change, and move forward into new models. 

Medical schools are like every other kind of academic institution. We place a lot of emphasis on tradition, and we’ve done a lot of things extremely well.  And faculty members often are challenging when you talk about changes. But we’re in an incredibly innovative period in America and there’s no reason medical education should be immune. So what I’m most pleased to see is how innovation in medical education and medical schools overall is accelerating. 

I think one of our biggest barriers has been our historic fragmentation—our separation into departments, sections, laboratories—things that actually kept us from coming together in joint collaborative efforts. I think overcoming that fragmentation and creating a unified organization-wide vision will be critical to our success going forward. 

Every year, I am able to visit anywhere from 10 to 15, sometimes 20, medical schools and teaching hospitals and everywhere I go I see innovators emerging—doing great things in the educational venue, in research, and new care models. I’m most hopeful about our patient centeredness. We’ve rediscovered the patient stands at the middle of everything. 

This is probably for me the most exciting time we’ve seen in academic medicine. 

See the video below to learn more about how Kirch believes academic medical centers can lead the way into the future.