Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Three Factors Leading to American Medicine’s Exceptionalism – Our Academic Medical Centers, The English Language, and Our Place as the Crossroads of the Internet Universe

For the last 10 years, I have served on the Medical Advisory Board of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd, a New York City medical care company that serves as a source for selecting America’s top doctors.

The doctors included in Castle Connolly's Top Doctor list are selected after peer nomination, extensive research , and careful review and screening. Doctors do not and cannot pay to be listed as a Castle Connolly’s Top Doctor. Each year for the last eight years, the Board has nominated and honored academic physicians with awards for Clinical Excellence and Lifetime achievements.

Candidates are mostly heads of departments at America’s academic medical centers. All have national and international reputations. This year’s candidates are specialists and include urologists, cardiovascular surgeons, a dermatologist, a plastic surgeon, a nephrologist, a radiologist, a medical oncologist, and a colorectal surgeon.

As I read their nominating endorsements, three themes for this blog emerged, namely, why America’s medical system is exceptional.

1. American Medicine as a Standard for Excellence

American medicine is, without doubt, the standard for excellence throughout the world. In large part, this is due to the leadership and innovations within our 125 academic medical centers. Most of the world’s leading medical journals are published here, 80% of the Nobel Prizes for medicine originate here in our medical centers, specialists from around the world flock here for advanced training, 25% of our practicing physicians are foreign-trained and migrate here to practice, and the world’s leaders and affluent citizens come here for treatment when seriously ill.

2. The English Language – A Precious, Universal Asset

The English language may be our greatest asset. It is the language of diplomacy. It is the language of science of medicine. It is the language of the international media and CNN. It is the language of the Internet. China and India recognize the importance of English, which is why English is required in their school systems. To function in the modern world, most Europeans are bilingual, in their own language and English. Winston Churchill mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. The same might be said of the use of English in mobilizing the battle against disease to advance the art and science of medicine. The U.S. may not have the world’s best “health system,” but we have the world’s best urgent care system, the most innovative specialists, and the best medical scientists.

3. The Internet - The Electronic Crossroads of the World Meet in America

The crossroads of the globalization intersect on the Internet in America. Most of its software is written in English. The world is moving on Internet time. The Internet is dictating the speed of change, and it is restructuring the world’s economies and its health care systems. It is often said we should adopt the health systems of other countries, but, thanks to the Internet, other countries are also mimicking the American system. Its citizens are demanding access to technologies created in America. Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, and Google, founded in 1994, 1994, 1995, and 1998, respectively, perform functions that did not exist 25 years ago, and employ, cumulatively, 75,000 people. Their existence enables new growth drivers. The internet is a driving force in restructuring American medicine, and through EMRs, broad band access to health information, telemonitoring of those with chronic disease, and the “virtual integration” of physicians and other health professionals, the Internet will transform how we care for patients, how they care for themselves, and how we pay for and deliver health care.

Further Readings

1.Andrew Ferguson, “Why America Is So Great,” The Weekly Standard, November 6, 2010.

2. George Will, “Economic Restructuring and the Next Big Thing,” Newsweek, November 5, 2010.

3. David Brooks, “The Crossroads Nation,” New York Times, November 8, 2010.

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