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I’ve written before on this blog about the importance — and potentially transformative power — of compassion, and about how ASF’s programs are designed to reinforce that importance and awaken that power. (In fact, the theme of next month’s Fellows for Life Conference is “Creating Change Through Compassionate Service.”)

Over the weekend, in an article entitled “Medical School Reinvented” that’s an optimistic counterpoint to the gloomy New York Times report I blogged about earlier this month, ABC News reported on the new med school curriculum at Florida International University — a curriculum that embraces compassion:

The curriculum here is no conventional training, representing one of the most thorough reinventions of medical education in a century.

Known as NeighborhoodHELP, it will pair each student with a low-income family facing barriers to health care. With teams of fellow students from nursing and social work, the aspiring doctors will observe and support the families throughout their years in medical school. Alongside more traditional medical lessons, they’ll get steady doses related to ethics, cultural understanding, and public-health policy.

The article notes that despite the tough economy, medical education in the U.S. is expanding:

“This opening of new medical schools … [is] an opportunity for innovation and experimentation,” says George Thibault of the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation in New York. Many medical schools still reflect standards set after a 1910 report by Abraham Flexner, he says, and while those standards are essential, they have not kept pace with changing technology and demographics.

FIU’s approach exemplifies many recommendations made in a Macy report last year, including a focus on the needs of society rather than of the profession, Dr. Thibault says.

It’s the type of learning that might be the subject of one class at many medical schools, but at FIU it will be integrated into all four years.

That last sentence is a key point: as a Schweitzer Fellow, working with the underserved is not something you do for two months and then set aside when you return to your “regular life”; by conducting their Schweitzer Project while they’re in school, and for a full year, our Fellows must learn to make working with the underserved part of their “regular life.” It sounds like FIU is supporting its medical students in doing the same — and that’s something worth cheering.

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