Doctors are, quite rightly, encouraged to continue learning their trade and keeping up with modern developments long after they have qualified. Indeed, in some states in the US doctors are required to take continuing education courses in order to retain their medical licenses.
However, the job has been made much easier over the last few decades by pharmaceutical and medical device companies who have offered doctors on-going education courses, usually for free and often in exotic locations and luxury hotels. Although these courses are, theoretically, regulated so that the companies cannot influence the participants, many doctors (and patients) are sceptical and believe that a conflict of interest is inevitable, even when it is not overt. Even when companies never mention the drugs or devices that they produce, by focusing attention onthe conditions for which their products are made, they ‘hype up’ the conditions and the likelihood that the doctor may use their product.
However, no longer prepared to accept the situation, a Harvard Medical School neurologist, Dr Martin Samuels, has now stated a new company, Lighthouse Learning, which will provide entirely independent continuing education to doctors across the US, without using any industry funding.
For a more detailed discussion of the problem and the new service, see an interesting article in the Boston Globe.