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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Modest Proposal from Dr. Swifty

The meritorious proposal below was submitted by Dr Swifty:

A Modest Proposal for UT

Given the recent criteria now used for selecting interim deans, I submit the following as my modest proposal for the next opening for an interim dean in the college of medicine. Just as Dr. Brady has insisted on his genuine concern about UT and his desire to help in any way he can, I think we should simply ask candidates if they really care about this institution. We should stop wasting time looking at their credentials, educational background and job history, and just focus on intention. Qualifications are simply irrelevant. As long as a candidate intends to do a good job and be helpful, that should be enough. So, when Dr. Gold steps down, I suggest that we select someone who has good intentions for the College of Medicine. No need for that person to have a degree in medicine. In fact, a business degree will be more than adequate and might even help us think outside of the box. Such a person might be able to apply models that have been proposed for the College of Education. Drs. Jacob, Haggett and Scarborough have recently pushed for exclusive on-line learning for two masters programs in the College of Education. By offering distance learning programs in these programs, the University could: reduce the need for faculty, reduce the time to degree, and reduce tuition rates thereby generating more enrollment.

It's time we consider how this model might benefit the medical college. How can we reduce the operating budget ? Reduce faculty, apparently the most costly (and therefore obviously expendable) line item in the budget. Does every medical classroom need a faculty member in it, particularly given the fact that they do not always attract high attendance in their classes? Medical students do not have the best rates of classroom attendance, as some doctors have candidly admitted to me when speaking nostalgically of their med school days. Paying a medical school faculty member to teach the same course repeatedly is a gross waste of money and space. Therefore, I propose that we do video capture of one iteration of each course and then run subsequent iterations of that course via distance learning, hosted by Higher Ed Holdings, for instance. Second-year medical students could tutor or mentor the first-year students, thus earning money to reduce their debt load. Faculty members could be coaches for the tutors and would still control the content material of the courses and could revise it as needed, though it is anticipated that such revisions would be minimal. Since humans have not grown any new brain lobes recently, there would be little need to revise the brain anatomy course anytime soon. Any new research on how the brain functions could be offered as infomercials delivered as short emails. And those business wizards at the pharmaceutical companies are always passing on the latest bit of cutting-edge research in free pamphlets, so there are plenty of opportunities for free continuing education.

Next, let us consider the time to degree. As Dr. Tom Brady recently explained in a meeting of Arts and Sciences Council, the Board of Trustees loves the idea of getting students through programs in ever shorter amounts of time. Given that attitude, why are we so wedded to a four-year program for a medical degree? Is there something magical about the number four? I like the number two: it's a simple, clean number that has the potential to halve everything. How do we reduce the requirements to offer a medical degree in two years rather than four? The above-mentioned distance learning model will greatly help. Second, reduce the number of boutique courses offered at the medical college. How many Ohio doctors will ever treat those glamorous, exotic, one-in-a million diseases? Let's get back to basics: bloodletting was the bread and butter of doctors for a long time and can be again. Do all doctors perform surgery in their practice? If not, then let's end that rotation. (Think of the time and lives that will be saved!)

One way of effectively trimming time to degree is to reduce the amount of information that students are required to learn. After all, we live in the digital age: if you don't know something, you look it up on-line. Doctors could do the same. In fact, they could do in the open what they do when they run from the examination room to consult the Physicians Desk Reference in private.

Dr. Gold has predicted a shortage of doctors in the Northwest Ohio region in the near future. The time to act is now, before it is too late. We need more doctors fast: let's reduce tuition so we can enroll more medical students. At bargain-basement prices, we'll move more inventory (credit hours) faster and so we'll make up the difference and generate lots of profits, and incidentally, graduate more doctors.

Finally, I suggest outsourcing some of the administrative functions of the medical college. We could: 1) offer it up to the lowest bidder, which will likely be a company outside the US or at least outside the Ohio region; 2) offer unpaid internships to business college students who would earn credit hours for which they would have to pay; 3) appoint permanent interim administrators with no previous experience in medicine, thus requiring no national search, a significant savings; 4) demand that medical faculty pick up administrative functions along with teaching, at the same salary of course; 5) or simply choose someone who has recently gone to a doctor's office and who can see things from the customer point of view.

I hope that this modest proposal is a helpful one, and that you believe in my benign intent.


Dr. Swifty


Anonymous said...

Careful Dr Swifty. You will be labeled as a "reactionary" for pointing out in your gentle and refined manner the raving incompetence of the current UT administration. Judging by the homily preached to the Faculty Senate recently, by someone who should know better, apparently our role as faculty is to somehow propose constructive ways to implement these ravings. The new buzzword is IMPLEMENTATION. Get ready for lots of tedious moralizing!! The round table is being re-stacked.

umbraged said...

Maybe we could learn from this, way ahead of its time:

Anonymous said...

Appropriate analogy! Good work Dr. S.