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The Future of the Future Physician

Medical students look for innovations both simple and space-age

The New Physician September 2007
In speculating about the health-care world where they will practice in 10 to 15 years, students and residents anticipate wide-ranging change. And being a characteristically optimistic bunch, most predict improvements on our current system, from better experiences of health equity to the ability to cure disease through nanotechnology. But a few see little hope for untangling today’s complex problems. Still, it’s clear that today’s learners are looking forward with expectation—and a little awe.

“In the future of medicine, the challenge will not be discovery of therapies, but the delivery and access of therapies to everyone. It will not be about innovations, but about equity.”


premed, American River College

“We will see a significant drop of incidence in diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity due to the widespread implementation of health promotion initiatives. Medical schools will lead by example with health standards and objectives for students that promote stress management and proper diet and exercise that future physicians will continue throughout their lives.”


premed, Ohio State University

“With the onset of the baby boomer generation quickly stepping into retirement, there will be a growing need for geriatric care and the pharmaceuticals to support it.”


second-year, St. George’s University School of Medicine

“The physician of the future will have to traverse a balance between Western medicine, Shamanic medicine, mind– body medicine, Eastern medicine and quantum medicine. Cross-cultural ideas of medicine will merge, yielding unique treatment modalities and novel ways of perceiving a patient’s physical-psycho-spiritual state and how it fits into the larger health of the global community.”


fifth-year, Bastyr University

“The United States will have a centralized electronic record system that vastly improves the efficiency of our system and the management of patients who are seen in multiple settings.”


fourth-year, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

“The biggest change we’ll see…is a fundamental rethinking of what it means to be a physician. Care is increasingly delivered in teams and by allied providers. The physician can’t continue to be the one guy who knows everything; we’re going to have to learn to be managers and coordinators of our patients’ care teams.”


third-year, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

“[Cures] for medical mysteries and newfound diagnoses never thought of will come to pass. [We’ll gain] a whole new insight about the biology/immunology of the body and how foreign bodies attack our system as a whole, and how they will and can be counteracted through the ideas of new and upcoming creative minds of medicine.”


premed, University of New Mexico

“We will work in a world even more saturated with me-too drugs and pharmaceutical-created medical conditions.... We will probably have drugs for things like ‘happiness disorder’ and ‘pre-pre-pre-PMS syndrome,’ while the majority of those in the world with malaria and HIV/AIDS will continue to be without medicines for their conditions.”


fourth-year, UNC at Chapel Hill School of Medicine

“With interventional radiologists running wires into the brain, I wonder how viable neurosurgery is going to be in 15 years. With nurse practitioners and pharmacists pushing for more and more rights, I don’t think I have to wonder what’s going to happen to GPs in 15 years.”


first-year, University of Alabama School of Medicine

“Electronic medical records combined with epidemiological and geographic database analysis have the potential to revolutionize the way we practice medicine in the near future. Imagine watching an influenza outbreak in real time as each patient that presents at a hospital or doctor’s office has their case (anonymously, of course) uploaded to the national database.”


third-year, Emory University
School of Medicine

“Hopefully, the biggest change will be a national electronic patient health record and data system along with a national insurance system that covers everyone and makes huge improvements in the access to and quality of health care available in the United States. If we’re lucky, this will be accompanied by incentives to make primary and preventive care available to all by putting a more appropriate value on this type of health care and slightly less emphasis on heroic measures and high-tech.”


M.D./Ph.D. candidate,
University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign

“I envision a healthy universal health-care system promoting [and] empowering patient–physician teamwork, prevention, integrative medicine, cultural awareness and compassion.”


second-year, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

“I expect…an even greater emphasis on research in medicine. In light of the emergence of new diseases and metamorphosis of existing ones, research in all fields will become more relevant to the practice of medicine.”


first-year, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar

“The most significant change will be technological, in the form of outsourcing patient genomic data to private enterprise producing genome-specific remedies from the gene patents they hold.”


post-baccalaureate premed,
San Francisco State University

“Two words: translational research. The cutting-edge medical technology and scientific tools bequeathed by the current generation will allow a flourishing of novel insights by emerging physician-scientists, eventually leading to cures for diseases previously considered untreatable”


first-year, Yale University
School of Medicine

“I believe that within the next 10 years, the United States will finally have universal health care that provides a basic level of care to each and every American. If not, I may be living in Europe in 10 years.”


third-year, University of Arizona College of Medicine

“I hope that physicians will begin to integrate complementary therapies like acupuncture and homeopathy into their practices to better treat chronic diseases.”


first-year, Mount Sinai
School of Medicine

“The next decade will see the rise of individualized medicine, where a patient’s treatment will be tailored to his or her genetic makeup. The use of faster and more affordable genetic profiling methods will allow physicians to “divine” an individual’s response to available interventions and design the course of therapy most effective for that patient.”


first-year, Harvard Medical School

“The battle between individual freedom and public health will continue as the government issues ration coupons for fats and sugars as a means of controlling the obesity epidemic.”


PGY-5, University of Virginia
Health System

“I am strongly considering a cash practice because I do not want to deal with the red tape and paperwork of insurance companies. However, I don’t want to limit my practice to only those who can afford it, so I may have a sliding payment scale and will consider taking a certain percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients. I plan to use a significant amount of osteopathic manipulation in the family practice setting, which I think will cut down on other office procedures and their associated costs. If many of my colleagues are thinking along these same lines, then I predict that private health insurance usage will decrease, and hopefully the funds will be redirected toward reasonable federal health insurance coverage, but I’m not holding my breath.”


third-year, University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine

“I see medicine as an integrated field where people will have informed choices of different systems of medicine, and physicians will rise above their selfish interests and strive toward one common goal: health and wellness of the community they serve.”


Advance standing student,
University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine

“The prejudice toward mental health care in America will continue to lessen—a good thing for our patients with mental illness, but worrisome as well. As more people seek mental health services, without more psychiatrists being trained, people will turn to other sources for their mental health care resulting in unpredictable and likely poor outcomes.”


PGY-3, Department of Psychiatry, University of Alabama at

“The greatest thing will be the discovery of a vaccine for AIDS.”


Mazandaran University of
Medical Sciences, Sari, Iran

“Psychiatry is a field that’s often forgotten or looked down upon, as was highlighted in The New Physician’s April 2007 issue. I believe psychiatrists as well as drug companies will be less focused on medication and more focused on holistic, behavioral and spiritual approaches. There is room for healing on a higher level than medicine, and I anticipate this transformation in the future.”


third-year, St. George’s University School of Medicine

“The health-care system in the United States will be one centered on disease prevention, global health and perhaps even universal health care. Whether we like it or not, our health-care system is so intertwined with the topics of concern today—environmental policy, infectious disease, the global economy and health—that we will be forced to change current policy either before we self-destruct or in response to a medical/public health disaster.”


fourth-year, Chicago Medical School

“The future of medicine will be a highly controlled environment dictated by profit-oriented bureaucracy in which physicians can no longer practice medicine in the true sense of the meaning, but rather are left only to follow protocols set forth by researchers of conglomerates with strong political lobbying power.”


third-year, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine

“Going on the current trend, I forsee a shortage of committed minority doctors simply because of the greater compounding obstacles of socioeconomic disparities in this country’s educational system.”


Ross University
School of Medicine

“There will be a tremendous increase in medical tourism. Rising insurance costs will drive patients to Asian countries for expensive surgical procedures. And as a prospective surgical resident, I find it very disturbing.”


second-year, University of Health Sciences, Antigua, West Indies

“I think the most significant change in medicine will be the employment of nanotechnology. Also, I believe more patients will want to know their individual risk factors for a disease based on their genes.”


premed, University of South Dakota

“Paper medical charts will have their own exhibition in a museum.”


first-year, Sophie Davis
School of Biomedical Education/
CUNY Medical School

“It is not a question of will be or may be. The most significant change in health care has to be achieving universal access to quality, affordable and evidence-based health care.”


third-year, University of California, San Francisco/Berkeley
Joint Medical Program

“Progress is being made slowly, but I see medicine becoming more open to discussions of problems unique to disenfranchised populations—in terms of both patients and providers—particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals and individuals living with disabilities.”


third-year, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

“The health-care environment is dynamic and has already reformed significantly. The future medical school curriculum will realize this and educate students on other vital perspectives in medicine including managing a business; law and medicine; handling debt; medical economics; prevention; the public’s health on a local, national and international level; and how to be a patient advocate.”


fourth-year, New York University School of Medicine

“I think the most
significant and clearly necessary change in health care will be the transition to a single-payer, nationalized health-care plan. Otherwise, the cost of health insurance to corporations will simply be too great to be competitive in a global economy.”


PGY-4, California Pacific
Medical Center

“By 2020, medicine will add to its regimen biologic therapies such as stem cells and nanotherapeutics, especially for the treatment of cancer. We will also be using the data from the Human Genome Project to develop and effectively deliver treatment specific to populations.”


third-year, Ross University School of Medicine