Triple Challenge: How Medical Students May Solve 3 Long-Standing Problems Bedeviling Health Systems and Medical Education

Acad Med. 2021 May 11. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004159. Online ahead of print.


Medical education and the health system must address challenges that, despite significant effort, seem unsolvable. Health systems science (HSS)-the fundamental understanding of how care is delivered, how health professionals work together to deliver that care, and how the health system can improve patient care and health care delivery-is increasingly being recognized as a potential source of solutions to these challenges. In this article, the authors review the 43 abstracts submitted to the American Medical Association Accelerating Change in Medical Education 2018 Health Systems Science Student Impact Competition that aligned with the goals of HSS. Their qualitative review identified 3 long-standing problems in medicine and medical education that were frequently addressed by the submissions: improving care for those with mental illness (5 submissions), improving diversity in medicine (4 submissions), and improving teamwork and interprofessional education (4 submissions). The authors extracted lessons learned from these abstracts. Many of the projects detailed in this article continue to make an impact at multiple levels. While not all projects were scientifically rigorous enough to be published on their own and the quality of the data presented in the abstracts varied widely, many provide innovative ideas for potentially solving long-standing problems that may have been overlooked or not considered sufficiently. These projects and their subsequent analysis demonstrate that, not only do medical students make significant impacts on the health system, patients, and other health professionals when equipped with HSS skills, working in health care teams, and advised by mentors, but they also may be able to address some of medicine's and medical education's long-standing challenges. The fresh perspective and high energy of medical students is valuable and should be nurtured and encouraged.