How can leaders set the tone that it's ok to be an innovator and to break the molds of tradition?

Lorris Betz, M.D., senior vice president emeritus of health sciences at the University of Utah, was named chair-elect, AAMC, says innovation must come from the top down.


A role of the leader of the organization can simply be to set a tone that indicates that it's okay to be innovative, it's okay to take risks, and if you are and you have some success, that's going to be recognized. That counts as much as the traditional things in academic medicine.

The models of how we provide healthcare to our patients, how we interact with our patients need to change. Also the models in the way we educate our students need to change. It's been very traditional. Institutions across the decades have changed. Course content has changed the way it's delivered.

But by and large, we're still heavily lecture-based. We should have programs where students can move onto the next subject once they've shown that they're competent in some area, rather than having to finish the semester in that particular class. You know, we're locked into these fixed time scales. Those sorts of models of education need to improve.

Then, also, the learner environment, I think, is also something that suffers from these traditions that we have in medicine. Students pick up a lot of subtle signs about how physicians interact in these environments. Not all of them are good.

There's something called the hidden curriculum, sort of what the students see and hear and experience in addition to what they're actually being taught. Sometimes the messages we're sending in those sorts of learner environments are not the best as well.

The practice of medicine now is very different than what it was when many started their practice of medicine. For some, the feeling is that it's changed for the worse. But if you look at the young students that are coming in who haven't known the previous environment, and the excitement level, and quite honestly, the competency level of the new students coming in is just astounding.

I think that spirit of enthusiasm of a bright future, it's going to be a different future, but it's going to be a bright future. The tools, the power that we have, that hopefully we can harness for the betterment of our patients, is just stronger now than it's ever been in the past.