Tools for You

A Doctor’s Training

The key to a Doctor’s expertise is his training. The training can be long and very complicated. The steps in the training process are as follows:

  • Undergraduate School
  • Medical School
  • Postgraduate Specialty Training.
  • The doctor’s location and experience in Practice.

Undergraduate School:

A Doctor’s education process begins with undergraduate school. Obviously, there is a great deal of subjectivity in arriving at the group of best undergraduate schools. But everyone would agree to include certain Schools - for example: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, University of California, Duke, Northwestern, USC, Tulane, Vanderbilt, and TCU.  The list, however, is long and published every year in the US News and World Report.

Medical School:

There are NO GREAT MEDICAL SCHOOLS, which are not attached to great Universities.

Postgraduate Training:

The post-graduate education in many specialties is often the most difficult segment of the process for an outsider to evaluate. Those within the discipline certainly know the best training facilities.  A well informed physician in any discipline may know that information.  Again, US New and World Report annually reports the best institutions for treating identified health problems.

Pulling this education data together may be more important than any particular piece of the data. For example: if the doctor starts out at a so-so university, but goes to a great medial school and proceeds to a great post graduate institution, s/he must have excelled in undergraduate school. Maybe the sequence demonstrates excellence at all levels. Or perhaps the doctor went to a great Undergraduate and Medical School, but ended up at a questionable Institution for Post-Graduate training. This may be an indication that this Doctor did poorly in Medical School. One can put together any number of such scenarios where the combination of the data will always yield important information about the caliber of the Doctor.

Location and experience in practice:

 If the doctor is in an obscure location, the problems for the patient become compounded. The Doctor you see may be the only doctor, or one of a very few. The first question for the patient to ask is - why is the Doctor located here?  Is it altruism or a desire to provide medical care to a small community that would otherwise have no doctor? Is the Doctor hiding from contemporary competition? Other immediate concerns are: What limitations this doctor faces?  Where and why does this doctor refer patients who have a serious illness or require surgery? If the doctor is a surgeon in an obscure location how many of the complicated procedures are performed in a year? What are the Doctor’s personal results? If the number of procedures performed in this location is small, it is important to know the Doctor’s personal record with the procedure.  Often in such settings national statistics rather than personal statistics are quoted.

If the doctor is in a large city then the educational process and the question of the “pod” practice become of great importance.

The tools of evaluation are available, but the process of acquiring and collating the data may be difficult for an individual patient.