Health Professionals for a New Century:
Transforming education for health systems in an interdependent world
The Commission Report, Health Professionals for a New Century, will be published by The Lancet at the end of November 2010. To mark its public release on the centenary of the 1910 Flexner Report, the Commission Report will constitute the focus of a Launch celebration hosted by the Harvard School of Public Health. The purpose of the event consisting of four interactive panels is to promote discussion, exchange, and even debate about the Commission’s findings and recommendations.
The full Commission Report and its Executive Summary will be made available to all Launch participants. The Report adopts a global perspective on the education for the major health professions following a systems framework that considers the education and health sectors focusing on institutional and instructional reforms. The Report concludes by recommending adoption of a third generation of systems-based reforms of instruction and education based on transformative learning and interdependence in education for advancing equity in health around the world.
The Symposium will consist of four interactive panels organized around the Commission’s Report. Each session will be orchestrated by a chair moderating opening commentaries by panelists, after which the floor will be open to engagement by the audience.
Panel 1 – Transforming the Learning Process
Transformative learning is the highest of three successive levels, moving from informative to formative to transformative learning. Informative learning is about acquiring knowledge and skills; its purpose is to produce experts. Formative learning is about socializing students around values; its purpose is to produce professionals. Transformative learning is about developing leadership attributes; its purpose is to produce enlightened change agents. Effective education builds each level upon the previous one.
Panel 2 – Reforming Educational Institutions
Interdependence is a key element in a systems approach as it underscores the ways in which various components interact with each other. As a desirable outcome, interdependence in education also involves three fundamental shifts: from isolated to harmonized education and health systems; from stand-alone institutions to networks, alliances, and consortia; and from inward-looking institutional pre-occupations to harnessing global flows of educational content, pedagogical resources, and innovations.
Panel 3 – Local Adaptability in a Global World
For these educational reforms to help achieve equity in health, a series of enabling actions will be required: First, broad engagement of leaders at all levels—local, national, and global—will be critical to achieve the proposed reforms and outcomes. Leadership must come from within the academic and professional communities, but it must be backed by political leaders in government and society. Second, current funding shortfalls must be overcome with a substantial expansion of investments in health professional education from all sources: public, private, development aid, and foundations. Third, stewardship mechanisms, including socially-accountable accreditation, should be strengthened to assure optimal results for any given level of funding. Lastly, there is the strengthening of shared learning supported by metrics, evaluation, and research to build the knowledge base about which innovations work under certain circumstances.
Panel 4 – Strategies for Dissemination
Health professionals have made enormous contributions to health and development over the last century, but complacency will only perpetuate the ineffective application of 20th century educational strategies unfit to tackle 21st century challenges. Therefore, we call for a global social movement involving all stakeholders—educators, students and young health workers, professional bodies, universities, non-governmental organizations, international agencies, donors, and foundations—that can propel action on this vision and these recommendations to promote a new century of transformative professional education. The result will be more equitable and better performing health systems with consequent benefits for patients and populations everywhere in our interdependent world.