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Year : 2000  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 173-186

Medical Education, Research, and Scientific Thinking in the 21st Century (Part Three of Three)

1 Retired Chairman and Professor of Internal Medicine, former Director of the Institute for Medical Education and Evaluation, University of Berne, Switzerland
2 Retired Deputy Director for Health Sciences, the Rockefeller Foundation, New York; founding Chairman and Professor of Health Care Organization, the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD and former Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
3 Retired Chairman and Professor of Family Medicine Emeritus and Member, Centre for Studies in Family Medicine, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Hannes G Pauli
Oranienburgstr. 13, CH-3013 Berne
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Background: During the 20th century medical education has been largely preoccupied with discussions of the venues and methods for teaching. Little attention has been paid to what should be learned about the scientific paradigm underlying research and practice. A 17th century model has gradually produced an increasingly narrow, monocausal , reductionistic view of health and disease. Much good has resulted, but this "belief system" fails to accommodate or explain the meaning and impact on patients' health of diverse internal and external experiences and in uences. During this period quantum mechanics and its ever-expanding capacity to accommodate new information and enhance understanding have superseded Newtonian physics in much scientific thinking. Methods: A broad range of historical and contemporary scientific literature is examined in support of four central questions in this three-part series: (1) Are there reasons to examine these matters now? (2) How is medical scientific thinking in uenced by the general reorientation of science during the 20th century? (3) Are there reasons now to examine the impact of these changes on medicine? (4) Will a change of paradigm affect medical practice, research, and education? Results: The extraordinarily productive contemporary biomedical model should be expanded beyond the physical and biological to incorporate meaningful information about how each patient's experiences impinge on health status. Conclusions: Family and other primary care physicians together with collaborators in the biological and behavioral sciences and other health professions should undertake rigorous research to establish the validity of the expanded paradigm espoused. Its impact on practice, research, education, and policies could be profound.

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