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The history of medical education during the period of 1870 to 1926 is examined in the context of current issues confronting education in the forensic laboratory sciences. Medical education was radically altered during this period, changing from a rudimentary lecture/apprenticeship system into its modern form.
Although the motivating forces had developed over some time, the actual change was quite rapid. By examining how this change occurred, we gain insight into how changes in our own profession might be initiated.
Parallels between our current situation and that in medical education 117 years ago include: (1) the primary burden of professional education is borne outside the university in an apprenticeship system, (2) the apprenticeship system is overburdened by a dramatic expansion in the knowledge and skills needed for professional practice, (3) there is no standardized curriculum or accreditation process for educational programs, and (4) there is no educational program that incorporates formal clinical education.
Based on this historical analysis, three major goals are proposed: (1) active entreprenurial promotion of professional educational programs by academics, (2) creation of a committee within the American Academy of Forensic Sciences to critique and rate university programs, and (3) the development of a well-defined clinical education program.
A model for formalized clinical education in the forensic laboratory sciences is proposed, incorporating clinical professors, student clerkships, and university control over instruction within an operational forensic science laboratory. Benefits from this arrangement include: efficient combination of physical plants, added personnel resources in the laboratory, rapid introduction of research into the laboratory, enhanced prestige for both academics and practitioners, and relief of the laboratory's in-house training burden.
Assistant professor of criminalistics, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
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