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Joel Arun Sursas Discusses Future of Medical Education: Challenges and Demands

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Recent efforts to expand medical training in resource-constrained settings are praiseworthy, but changes that transform health systems will require new approaches to education. Medical education has to adapt to different contexts of health care, including digitized health care systems and digital student generation in a hyper-connected world. In this article, Dr. Joel Arun Sursas examines some of the trends that are moving medical education into new directions.

The Bedrock of Modern Medical Education Can Stand Firm While Being Enhanced

For over one hundred years, medical education has been centered around the guiding principles identified by Abraham Flexner and William Osler. Flexner focused on traditional university education that requires established enrollment requirements, a well-developed and strict curriculum, and highly accomplished faculty members who focus their careers on teaching and research. Osler pressed for comprehensive clinical and patient-focused training that requires direct patient interaction under the supervision of faculty and teaching physicians. Undergraduate and medical school training has been directed toward producing graduates who are highly trained scientifically with a solid foundation in real-world treatment applications. Although resources and time are always limited, modern training can and should remain focused on medical education's foundational precepts. [1] [3]

Teaching Compassionate Care

Modern healthcare is growing as a massive and typically centralized system that is so comprehensive and large that it is essentially impossible to expect anyone to be expert in every aspect of care that can be taught in school. One of the areas that many practitioners, students, and residents find to be lacking is humanizing patient care. It can be easy for doctors to focus on systems and become disengaged from patients and families. Unsatisfactory patient experiences lead to less than optimal clinical outcomes. Most students come into their medical education with strong feelings of empathy and dedication to their chosen profession, and schools should support and respect them in order to promote sustained compassionate attitudes towards patients. [4]

Teaching Symptom Management

Recent medical advances mean that many diseases and chronic conditions are no longer untreatable but can be survived with a high quality of life. However, many times survival often includes involved levels of symptomatic care that were quite uncommon in the past. Medical training will need to include more developed teaching of symptom management in order to help patients who are stressed and can easily become depressed as a result of long-term treatment of difficult diseases and conditions. Medical education should support enthusiastic students who feel motivated to help patients with chronic symptoms. [2]

Dynamic and Competitive Postgraduate Continuing Education

With increasing specialization and technology-based healthcare, continuing education for doctors who have been out of medical school for years or decades is increasingly important. As healthcare systems around the world shift between mixtures of governmentally regulated and administered and free-market competitive environments, the need for dynamic and up-to-date continuing professional education is more pronounced. Continuing education must not focus exclusively on cost-management concerns, but should aim to bring training in the latest technological advances to established practitioners whose patients can most benefit from modern methods and techniques. [4]

Medical School Testing Presents a Conflict Between Educational Specialization and Core Competency Training

In the U.S., the Medical Licensing Examination that medical students take to be considered for acceptance into residency programs presents some challenges for medical school education. Students naturally place great emphasis on earning high scores on the exam. However, preparing for the exam pressures many students to take commercial courses that focus on the exam's requirements to the detriment of their standard medical school curriculum, causing many modern medical students to miss out on education opportunities during their early years of medical school. Possible solutions include making the exam pass/fail and furthering the study of the materials and subjects covered by the exam. Overall, the process of test-taking and sorting students for the highly competitive job market will continue to face the prospect of managing conflict with the standard demands of medical school education. [2]

Online Training Will Be a Growing Part of Medical School Education

Many medical schools are struggling with the reality of the onset of online education. The dynamic exists between the advantages of using online learning resources and the value of traditional lectures and classroom instruction. Many faculty members are concerned that as they build up libraries of online training materials they will become less necessary to the training process and that they will lose the relationships with their students they feel are necessary to proper medical instruction. Online instruction appears to be a permanent and growing part of the overall educational landscape in all disciplines, and medical education will need to develop a strong relationship between traditional classroom instruction and using online resources for their supplementary value, at a minimum. [1]

About Dr. Joel Arun Sursas

Dr. Joel Arun Sursas is a Medical Doctor and Health Informatician who designs and implements the latest technological developments to solve administrative problems in healthcare. His primary focus is on developing technological advances between doctors and engineers to improve patient outcomes through improved monitoring while protecting patient privacy. Dr. Sursas's interest in the field of Medical Informatics emerged when he began working as a Project Officer for PACES — the Patient Care Enhancement System for Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). At the SAF, he worked with multiple doctors and engineers on the largest Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system in Singapore and also developed a data analytics platform to assess epidemiological data throughout the system. Dr. Sursas is currently serving as Head of Clinical Affairs for Biorithm, a medical device start-up company working to move fetal surveillance from hospitals into home settings, revolutionizing the obstetric practice globally.


1. Yeoh KG. The future of medical education. Singapore Med J. 2019;60(1):3–8. doi:10.11622/smedj.2019003. Retrieved from

2. Densen P. Challenges and opportunities facing medical education. Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2011;122:48–58. Retrieved from

3. Buja, L.M. Medical education today: all that glitters is not gold. BMC Med Educ 19, 110 (2019). Retrieved from

4. Han, E., Yeo, S., Kim, M. et al. Medical education trends for future physicians in the era of advanced technology and artificial intelligence: an integrative review. BMC Med Educ 19, 460 (2019). Retrieved from

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