Medical School Training Falls Short

A Letter to the Editor of USA Today from AHT’s Dr. Margaret Heldring

There is indeed a huge gap between the training of most medical students and the experience most doctors have in practice, which Linda Rosenstock, dean of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, points out when she says that medicine treats only 30% of what actually ails people (”Better public health training urged,” Life, Nov. 5).

The attacks of 9/11, anthrax scares, West Nile virus and the D.C. sniper killings — all frightening events — have imposed new levels of psychological burden on people, families and communities. It’s getting hard to judge risk, and the ensuing ambiguity is stressful for everyone. When stressed in these ways, people turn to their doctors, pediatricians and nurse practitioners with their symptoms more often than they turn to official mental health professionals.

In fact, more than 50% of all mental health visits in the USA are to these primary-care providers. When medical school training is updated to put a greater emphasis on public health, we also must remember that mental health is fundamental to good health. This is true for one person and true for a whole nation.

Margaret Heldring, president
America’s HealthTogether, Washington