Most med school grads are unprepared to treat diabetes

Many recent graduates of medical school programs may have very little training in how to care for chronic disease, which could greatly impair their ability to treat a patient who has type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University.

The researchers said that their study, which was published in the American Journal of Medicine, shows that there is currently an imbalance in the training of primary care physicians. Despite the fact that 90 percent of doctor visits are outpatient, most medical schools focus on inpatient situations. This leaves future primary doctors unprepared to deal with chronic disease like diabetes.

"When I graduated from residency here, I knew much more about how to ventilate a patient on a machine than how to control somebody's blood sugar and that's a problem," said Dr. Stephen Sisson, who led the study. "The average resident doesn't know what the goal for normal fasting blood sugar should be. If you don't know what it has to be, how are you going to guide your diabetes management with patients?"

For the study, Sisson and his team of researchers administered a test commonly used to gauge the knowledge of medical students to a group of first-, second- and third-year residents who were practicing at either an academic medical center or community hospital. All of the first-year residents were poorly prepared to treat chronic illness. However, knowledge improved somewhat among community hospital residents over time.

Given the current demands being placed on the healthcare system by the high number of patients with chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, which requires intensive care, Sisson said that medical schools need to consider changing the way they do business and incorporate more general teaching.