July 31, 2022

Why Medical Education Needs to Meet Pop Science

Instead of becoming a Doctor, I almost chose to be a physicist.

And with good reason.

As a child, I’d always reach for an astronomy book when asked to read. I’d stare at pictures of solar systems that occupied the entire page, marvelling at the scale of our universe. I didn’t have to understand the logistics behind it all; the pictures were self-explanatory.

In my teen years, I’d watch chemists on TV create stunning chemical reactions and physicists perform death-defying tricks. I still didn’t understand the science behind it all, just that it was possible. These were more than just demonstrations, they were open invitations to learn more, invitations to join their world.

In my 20s, I was introduced to physicists like Brian Cox, Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson who built upon those foundations. Their documentaries had all the ingredients to make you want to follow in their footsteps: powerful storytelling, strong audiovisual effects and complex information explained in a simple, entertaining and inspiring way.

I’d always think to myself: wouldn’t it be amazing if everything was taught this way?

I hadn’t learned a single equation nor did I take a single astrophysics class. Yet, these experiences almost convinced me to pursue a higher education in astrophysics.

This is the power of ‘Popular Science’, and it’s time we applied it to Medical Education.

What is ‘Popular Science’ and how is it useful?

Popular Science (or ‘Pop Science’) is an interpretation of science intended for a general audience, as opposed to being for scientists or students of the subject.

Pop Science attempts to inform scientific ‘outsiders’ about the significance of what is known and what is yet to be discovered. Pop Science influences cultural discourse and is propagated through mediums such as films, books and magazine articles.

In other words, most of what we know about science prior to intentional learning is attributed to the influence of Pop Science.

Notably, it often involves intentionally distorting and omitting information for the sake of simplification and to avoid confusion. However, this is done in a calculated, artistic way in order to achieve its primary purpose: mass distribution. It plays a crucial role in exposing people to a subject, influencing how they perceive its importance and inviting them to pursue a deeper understanding.

Every science is represented through Pop Science, but some are simply better represented than others.

Why Medical Education needs the ‘Pop Science’ treatment.

Medical Education has traditionally been gatekeeped by institutions and practising physicians.

If you didn’t go to medical school, have a doctor in your family or have a General Practioner (family doctor) who explained things well, you’d be left to ‘google search’ your own theories within a sea of digital noise.

And we all know how that works out.

I didn’t know what a ‘heart attack’ truly meant until I went to medical school. I didn’t know the difference between my own blue and brown asthma inhalers until then, either, despite having been asked to take them for most of my life.

If there’s one division of science that ought to have the Pop Science treatment, it’s Medical (& ‘Health’) Education.

Medical Education teaches us how to protect, maintain and live with our own bodies. Its lessons are practical, transferable, immediate and lifelong. When accurate, it saves lives and prevents ill health. When it falls short, generations of people internalise misinformation, propagating it unknowingly amongst generations to come. The consequences are incalculable.

Medical Education will always have its place in Pop Science, but without adequate representation from accurate, entertaining and relatable sources, popular discourse is left to be dictated by false health gurus and advertising agencies.

Now more than ever, we must also recognise the need for more health professionals. Aside from attracting and retaining clinicians, we have to start top-of-funnel by educating and inspiring our youth on medical education.

By doing so, we invite them to explore and consider the possibility of a career in medicine. We plant a seed of curiosity, offer the foundations for growth and tackle misinformation by providing a trustworthy source of learning, one that they can look forward to hearing from.

We need ‘Pop Science’ medical educators just like physics has Brian Cox and Neil deGrasse Tyson. We need our youth to open books on anatomy and marvel at the intricacies of the human body. We need to provide teenagers with a true representation of what a career in medicine consists of, if we are to inspire a generation of future doctors.

We need Medical Education to meet Pop Science, now more than ever. Because if we’re not shaping it, somebody else is.

A word from the Author:

It’s easy to talk about distributing medical education to a wider audience, but it’s another thing doing it.

The Hippocampus TV teaches medical concepts and conditions in a simple, entertaining way so that we can educate the public and inspire a generation of future doctors.

We’re a group of doctors, creators and educators dreaming up a future for medical education, and we welcome you to check out the work that we’re doing.

-Dr. Faisal Jamshaid (Founder @ The Hippocampus TV)

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The Hippocampus TV — Creating Future Doctors.

Every week, I write about philosophy, self-fulfilment and creativity.
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