Friday, June 10, 2016

How to go about making more neurologists

I've been involved in several discussions on a national level lately about a perceived need to increase medical student recruitment to neurology as a specialty. There is worry about the looming doctor shortage. There is worry that we are not hip enough to compete with the cooler specialties. I understand the concern, and I think we as neurologists need to create a solid argument for why one should choose our specialty.

Photo from OHSU digital commons
I'm a little concerned with the tenor by some in the discussion that we need to somehow enter into this like it is a competitive marketplace. I'm not sure that saying if a student is interested in brain science when they enter med school, and then find they are interested in surgery that we should count this as a loss of a potential neurologist. I'm also not sure that counting a student who entered thinking about primary care, and then decided to go into neurology is a win either. Don't we kind of need more primary care doctors in general? (But I digress...)

My proposal is to improve recruitment into neurology, we focus on creating opportunities for medical students to make good choices about what they want to go into. We should focus on allowing students to be exposed not only to neurology, but other specialties they may not normally encounter. It's not about selling neurology at the detriment of family practice. For me, it's about finding where the students are at and helping them make a more informed decision about what to go into long term. It's about all of the options having a chance to let the student see into their world. It's about them finding out who they want to be and what they will be passionate about pursuing.

I think we'll have more success if we work together across disciplines and specialties to allow students opportunities to make good choices. I'm pretty certain in conference rooms where clerkship directors are meeting across all specialties, I'll bet we're all having similar conversations. If we all create stuff, and it is not coordinated, it'll look like a jumbled mess, and make it harder for students to make the best choice for them. We all have been on the wrong side of a sales pitch which is a bit too strained, too desperate. Let's not go there in our quest to maintain a steady supply of neurologists.

What do you think is the best way to go about recruiting medical students to neurology or any subspecialty? Please post your thoughts in the comments.