Challenges of medical education and the role of medical students

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Leonne Del Vecchio, a final-year medical student at the Universidade of Taubaté, Brazil. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Challenges faced by medical education worldwide are no big news, although it have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, those challenges are like chronic diseases without a treatment that tackles the right issue, it seems that all that can be done are symptomatic drugs. 

It’s easy to say that medical students are the only ones affected by this issue, as the quality of medical education will have a direct impact in their professional development, but this issue cannot be surfaced without stating that the quality of medical education affects the whole health system and even compromises patients’ safety. 

As a matter of public health, medical education it’s a serious theme, that should be discussed through a wide prism. Medical students are indeed the protagonist of their own path and can either corroborate to a system that doesn’t work or engage in activities that instigates change and can be view as supporting assets of their education.

Although challenges are present during all the medical curriculum, it’s important to highlight the decline of clinical skills, as it is an ongoing issue. The causes of this recent deterioration of clinical skills are complex and represents a significant challenge to academic medical institutions. Some of it can be attributed to students distancing from teaching hospitals during the last recent years. But it’s important to highlight that this was a problem before, and it may continue to be. The fundamental issue is that academic teaching hospitals affiliated with medical schools often have and environment that, paradoxically, does not foster the proper instruction of bedside clinical skills [1].

Unfortunately, not all medical students are interested in assuming leadership positions or even engaging in activities that at least recognises these challenges. With that being the first step to change, students should take the lead of their own education process.  

Engaging in activities such as IFMSA is an important step to empowering medical students. Although these issues arise from students themselves, by thinking and evaluating the challenges faced during medical training, big changes are not always up to them.

Leaders of medical school and academic teaching hospitals should re-evaluate their stance on high-quality medical education and invest resources in programmes that provide a cadre of clinician-educators with true protected time for education as they are often overloaded with clinical work. Should offer financial incentives, academic rewards, and a path to promotion and recognition. Elevating institutional commitment is the key to reversing the decline in clinical skills in nascent physicians which will lead to improved health outcomes for society [2].

On the other hand, students can and should engage in activities that will improve their clinical skills as well as improving their human skills, extracurricular activities especially those in contact with the wide public are and will be the central core of medical students’ leadership as it plays a big role in developing the soft skills much needed to excel in the medical career.


[1] Faustinella F, Jacobs RJ (2018). The decline of clinical skills: a challenge for medical schools. Int J Med Ed. 9:195-197. doi: 10.5116/ijme.5b3f.9fb3. (Accessed: January 20, 2023).

[2] Buja LM, Cox SM, Lieberman SA, MacClements J, Williams JF, Esterl RM Jr, Shine KI (2013). A university system’s approach to enhancing the educational mission of health science schools and institutions: the University of Texas Academy of Health Science Education. Med Ed Online. 18:1,20540. doi:10.3402/meo.v18i0.20540.  (Accessed: January 20, 2023).

About the author

Leonne Del Vecchio is a final-year medical student at the Universidade of Taubaté, Brazil.  Currently a Local Officer of IFMSA, has acted as Local President (LP), Local Exchange Officer Director (LEO-D) as well as Local Officer on Medical Education Director (LOME-D) taking part in a bundle of actions and activities throughout the years. He is a medical education advocate and believes improving medical education is an initiative that should arise between students and the academic institution, working together towards progress. Leonne aspires to become a surgeon as well as a medical professor in the future.

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