Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A little medicine

Mauren Dowd writes about Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband, two Harvard/Boston clinicians and well-spoken advocates of quality care choices. I heard NPR's Terry Gross talk with them recently on Fresh Air. One of the more striking things they mentioned on Fresh Air was how best practices guidelines tend not to stay best practices for long. They found a half-life approaching as little as five years. But Groopman and Hartzband still advocate the use guidelines, just in concert with patient-specific insights.

In the New Yorker, Atul Gawande writes about "coaches" for doctors, teachers, vocalists, you name it. NPR discussed it on Talk of the Nation. I couldn't help but think about coaches for college professors. In a way, we already have them, although the sports analogy usefully parses the distinction between "referee" and "coach" --- the latter is on your side, the former not more often than half the time (or less in a multi-person game!). But coaches for instruction would be another matter entirely. I was astonished at the level of care taken by the middle school teacher in her approach to instruction according to  Gawande's piece. But the article also reveals that she had been losing gusto for the job, and the coaching reinvigorated her by enhancing the quality of her teaching. 

Journal referees often seem like they're doing anything but enhancing the quality of research, but that's probably because of the natural of double or single-blind reviewing. If they communicated by speaking, I bet it'd be clearer that they're trying to improve the quality of your output.