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Experts Tipsheet

Training tomorrow's doctors

To keep up with a changing world, UC Irvine’s College of Medicine is taking some less traditional approaches toward educating its medical students. Below is a sample of how the college is helping tomorrow’s doctors keep up with their patients’ emotional, financial and medical needs. These efforts include teaching students the difference between acupuncture and arrowroot, how to negotiate with an insurance company, and the intricacies of iambic pentameters.

June 2004

To get inside a patient’s suffering, write a poem
It’s pretty hard to confuse a doctor with a poet, but in the eyes of Dr. Johanna Shapiro, the two fields share many similarities. She is the director of a popular medical humanities program that integrates literature, ethics and the visual and performing arts with the history of medicine. “Each confronts mortality and death, relieves suffering, and balances emotional distance and engagement,” Shapiro said. “Disease is embedded in human stories and suffering, and we must learn to listen to the one and empathize with the other.” Students read stories such as “The Elephant Man,” which include personal experience with specific diseases. They also write poems that reflect their experiences in medicine. These activities are proving key to empowering students to raise important, practical questions about empathy and personal humanity. Contact Johanna Shapiro at 949-824-3748, 714-456-5171,

That suture costs HOW much?
Doctors are increasingly required to understand the intricacies of the business world; unfortunately, newly minted physicians often leave medical school lacking the business and management skills necessary for maintaining a practice. To solve this problem, UCI is now offering its medical students practical business training in topics ranging from negotiating with an insurance company to the administration of a hospice. “Knowledge about business will make it easier for doctors to care for their patients,” said Dr. Alpesh Amin, assistant professor of medicine, who introduces the students to the business of medicine. Contact Alpesh Amin at 714-456-3785,

The student is “In”
Many patients assume that teaching hospitals add insult to their injury with prodding parades of white-coated students and residents. But most patients appreciate the extra attention, a College of Medicine study found. Of more than 120 patients surveyed during a family medicine clerkship, 92 thought the students improved their care, and 105 enjoyed the contact. Almost no patients reported any interference with the doctor-patient relationship, and only 12 patients thought students took too much time. “At least in a family medicine setting, patients came away with very positive experiences of students,” said Dr. Michael Prislin, professor of family medicine. Prislin and his colleagues study the roles played by patients and students in developing future physicians. Contact Michael Prislin at 714-456-5171,

Does your doctor know acupuncture from arrowroot?
Can you ask your doctor what herbal supplement to take or which acupuncturist to see? Most physicians don't know much about alternative medicine; however, as demand for complimentary and alternative care increases, the College of Medicine is taking steps to ensure that its graduates are fluent in alternative health. Today, anatomy courses cover acupuncture, while the obstetrics and gynecology clinical rotation includes discussions on herbal alternatives to hormone replacement therapy. Students can even help create classes that examine the scientific explanations behind traditional and nontraditional therapies.


Related Links

College of Medicine

Department of Medicine


Tom Vasich
(949) 824-6455


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