Sunday, February 15, 2009

Non-Clinical Medicine

To many people (including myself), the phrase "non-clinical medicine" sounds a bit odd. After all, the practice of medicine is clinical in nature.

Can you image the following conversation?

Q: "So what type of medicine do you practice?"
A: "I practice non-clinical medicine."
Q: "Oh, you mean like radiology or pathology?"

See, many people equate clinical medicine to seeing and treating patients. So if you're not actively engaged in direct patient contact and patient care, does that mean you're practicing non-clinical medicine? Not necessarily. The answer to the question above could also sound like this:

A: "No, I work behind in a company developing population-based disease management programs for managed care organizations."
or,
A: "No, I work in a medical education company developing continuing education programs for physicians, pharmacists, and nurses."
or,
A: "No, I now work in Wall Street"
or,
A: "No, I now work for the marketing division of a pharmaceutical company"
or,
A: "No, I work on developing market research surveys on different therapeutic topics."
or,
A: "No, I now work as a medical news reporter."

To some, the phrase "non-clinical medicine" means that you sit in an office and have full-time administrative duties. And yet to others, "non-clinical medicine" just means that you're no longer engaged in anything that directly relates with patient care.

Are public health physicians working in non-clinical medicine? Population health issues may conflict with direct patient care issues since population medicine needs to weigh decisions against the "greater good." Direct patient care is individualized medicine.

I've gone on quite a tangent, but the point I'd like to return to is this: non-clinical medicine is a very broad phrase that means different things to different people. So don't make any automatic assumptions about someone's career if they tell you that they are now engaged in pursuing a non-clinical career.

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