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Outside the Lab Training and education, Profession

From 1995 to Infinity – and Beyond!

While browsing the “free books” table at my local grocery store, I came across a wonderful specimen called “Learning Medicine: 1995.” A quick flip through revealed what I was already expecting: noticeably out-of-date suggestions interspersed with wise – but very general – advice (along the lines of: “Make sure you try a number of specialties before deciding on a career!”). Unsurprisingly, references to computer- and Internet-based learning were all but absent, and as for looking up diagnostic criteria on your tablet or reviewing slides on your laboratory’s digital pathology system? Such things were the stuff of dreams (or movies) back in the mid-1990s…

It was startling to see just how much the world has changed over the last couple of decades. Articles are now online-first (or online-only). Patients can log into web-based portals to review their own medical records (and Google anything they don’t understand, perhaps leading to even greater confusion). Pathologists can scan slides into their computer systems, annotate them digitally, give their software verbal commands, send images to experts on opposite sides of the world in mere seconds, review and sign out cases while relaxing on the beach… The list is endless.

With these positive changes come new challenges. From the earliest stages of their careers, pathologists must now be competent and confident with digital technologies. Bioinformatics, formerly only the domain of specialist scientists, is beginning to reach into every corner of the clinical laboratory. Workloads are increasing as the patient population grows and ages – especially when technological solutions are expected to replace workforce increases. And students who were once expected to grapple with advice like “talk to mentors in different specialties” are now tasked with Wiki creation, software programming, or even virtual reality medical training.

It’s clear that medicine is advancing rapidly – and medical education is keeping pace. But are all of these changes making life better for doctors (and thus for their patients as well)? Are some presenting more obstacles than improvements? And, if so, how can we shift the balance so that we’re using new technologies to our best advantage? If you have an opinion or an experience to share with your colleagues, let us know ([email protected]); we’ll be happy to disseminate it in both traditional and futuristic (if you’re in 1995) ways!

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