Charles Dickens began one of the classics of Western literature with the now familiar words “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” How appropriate a description of medical education today. For we find ourselves in a time of impendent revolution, when the rising tide of discontentment threatens to overwhelm the monarchy of traditional methodology. It is a time of exponentially increasing knowledge which, while invigorating to the specialist, threatens to drown even the most aspiring and motivated of our students in a sea of information. No longer will the oppression of increasing lecture hours and narrowing the focus of our disciplines contain the problem. The voice of conscience has been stirring many to seek desperate action, but we as moderates must strive for more acceptable answers. Our goal must be to promote curricular evolution rather than revolution. And in this, I am proud to stand with so many of you who support the cause.
But our story, to extend the metaphor, need not be titled A Tale of Two Doctrines, as medical education has firmly set our direction on the path of the individual. Once again, history will record the ’90s as a decade of freedom for the individual, this time for both student and faculty. It will be a time of self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-direction. This decade will emphasize new methods in teaching and learning, a resurgence of compassion and humanistic values, and a new age of global communication and information exchange through the technology of computers.
The BSEF is only one effort in this struggle; but I believe that we have the potential to become the leaders in guiding rational change in the way the science of medicine is both taught and learned. Those who have read my previous “Message From…” columns, know my personal conviction that we as basic scientists have a moral imperative to fulfill this role. In this issue of The Forum we begin in earnest to publish on a regular basis, and at length, the first of many creative ideas. The columns we promised now begin to emerge because of the efforts of so many dedicated individuals.
I am pleased to report that membership in the BSEF (and thus readership) has increased by 70% since last summer, to the tally at press time of 529 individuals! And our ranks continue to grow daily. My only regret is that I do not have the resources to write a personal word of welcome to each new member of our organization. The time is not far off, however, when systems will exist by which we may all communicate electronically. Jim Swierkosz gives us a View of the exciting possibilities the future holds. To this end, we have modified our membership request form to include E-mail address. I would also ask each current BSEF member to help us update our Directory of Colleagues by sending me his/her current E-mail address (by mail, fax, phone, or E-mail). Such information becomes especially relevant as we reach out to our colleagues in Central and South America, offering BSEF membership as the first step toward becoming a worldwide organization. I know you will all join me in welcoming our first basic scientist, and new BSEF recruiter, from the Universidad de Los Andes, in M?rida, Venezuela – Dr. Jos? Mu?oz.
Truly, it is the best of times when we can unite with others in a global effort to influence teaching and learning in the art and science of medicine. Perhaps because I write this message on July 14th the metaphor of Dickens’ novel stirs my mind. But if one date is required to remind us of the desperate need for reform, then Bastille Day is indeed an appropriate choice. Change will come; but those who initiate change must not become drunk with new found power. We are the voice of thoughtful progress. Come; join us in this new Fraternit?.