Education as a Whole is Changing, Ezekiel Akande Acknowledges, and Healthcare Students Need to Adapt
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused schools across the globe to close. Many universities were the first to cancel classes, switching to an online forum. It allowed students to finish their courses. While online courses are an option, healthcare students need hands-on labs. Ezekiel Akande, an anesthesiologist and medical director of pain management for Somerset Regional Pain Center in Somerset, Kentucky explores how education in healthcare will be evolving.
Ezekiel Akande explains that medical students depend heavily on labs and clinics. They need to physically see what’s happening. They need to be able to pick up instruments and perform various procedures. Without being able to gather in a classroom, it can make it harder for students to get an education in healthcare.
While technology is evolving, Ezekiel Akande fears that it won’t be enough. Technology is already allowing students to watch videos. Students can collaborate using whiteboards. There are even some sites that allow for gamification. It involves the ability to turn learning activities into games.
What about using microscopes? Dissecting cadavers? This is where Ezekiel Akande fears that education in healthcare will be difficult. These are necessary for medical students as it provides them with a firm understanding of how the body works.
Virtual dissection labs are already being created. It allows students to use a computer mouse or a tablet to trace what needs to be cut. They can zoom in to see nerves, organs, and other critical information. However, it doesn’t allow them to hold a scalpel in their hands. They aren’t able to move organs with their gloved hands in order to “feel” their way around – and that’s where Ezekiel Akande wonders how virtual labs will translate when medical students find themselves face to face with a real patient.
The answers aren’t completely known yet, Ezekiel Akande admits. Some colleges and universities are planning on opening in the fall with no changes to the classroom or curriculum. Others are requiring masks. Others are reducing the number of students in the classrooms to allow for social distancing.
There’s already a physician shortage occurring in the United States, Ezekiel Akande states. Some of this has to do with the student debt involved. Many students simply don’t want to go to school for eight to ten years and end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Combine this with the pandemic and limited educational opportunities and Ezekiel Akande wonders what education in healthcare is going to look like.
Getting an education in healthcare will be more important than ever. It’s not just for those who want to become doctors, however. Education in basic healthcare should start in grade school. Virtual lessons are not enough. Ezekiel Akande warns that there has to be hands-on learning, which will involve taking a new approach now that the pandemic has changed the way that education happens.
As an author, an anesthesiologist, and a long-time pain management physician in Brentwood, Tennessee, Dr. Ezekiel Akande says the national approach to opioid addiction is misguided at best, and literally criminal at worst. “It’s a problem all over the world,” Dr. Akande says, “but it’s a real crisis here in America.
Just like the pandemic happening right now all over the world, opioid addiction is a crisis America can’t seem to get a handle on. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists*, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports approximately 100 people a day die from opioid abuse and more than 2 million Americans abuse opioids every single day.
This is a real tragedy and a tragedy that can certainly be avoided, according to Dr. Ezekiel Akande. However, the media likes to focus on the physician doing the prescribing as the primary cause of this national crisis, he says. “I’ve seen too many good doctors used as scapegoats,” he adds.
“We, as physicians, are expected to help our patients relieve their aches and pains,” Dr. Akande says. “That’s what we do. And with opioids being one of the best methods of relieving severe pain, it’s obviously one of the best methods in our arsenal of treatments that help our patients achieve this goal.”
Contrast that scenario with the so-called “pill mills,” where doctors will boldly meet with patients to exchange prescriptions for cash, Dr. Ezekiel Akande says.
These are 2 scenarios that both contribute to the opioid problem in America, he explains, but there’s a huge difference between the two. On one hand, you have a physician who truly cares about their patients’ wellbeing. In the second case, you have outright criminal behavior that needs to be stopped and punished with jail time.
Instead of using available resources and personnel on locating and shutting down the pills mills, Dr. Akande says, the government is coming down on all prescribing physicians.
Some honest physicians are being thrown in jail, Dr. Ezekiel Akande says, which does nothing to solve the opioid problem in America. “This grossly unfair treatment of doctors who are simply trying to help their patients is apparently supposed to serve as a warning sign to other doctors who do the same, Dr. Akande adds. It’s supposed to encourage us to find alternative methods of treating pain for our patients so the addiction scenario never occurs, he explains. “But if there were an alternative method of treating the pain successfully,“ he continues, “we’d already be using it.”
The result is frustrated patients who end up not having their pain resolved, and continued abuse from the pill mills who continue to operate illegally and continue to fuel the problem.
“It’s like saying gun ammunition shops are to blame for murders because they sell bullets to their customers,” Dr. Ezekeiel Akande, says. It just doesn’t make sense when you really think about it.
I know the answer to the opioid epidemic is complicated, Dr. Akande continues. He says the problem is not something that can be remedied in a week or even a month. “There are multiple pieces of a very complex puzzle involved in looking at this crisis – much more than I can explain in a few minutes, he says, “and these factors play upon each other and affect the long-term outcome in different ways,” he adds.
But punishing doctors who are stuck in the middle trying to help their patients isn’t the way to solve the problem, Dr. Ezekiel Akande says. That actually results in patients being left high and dry without any pain relief at all, resulting in the “pill mill” scenario mentioned earlier.
“It’s a long road and a hard battle,” says Dr. Akande, “but I’m determined to fight it for the patients who deserve it.”