Heal for America?

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Dr. William V. Healey proposes that we apply the Teach for America model to medical care. That’s right: recruit bright college graduates into the medical profession for one- or two-year stints. This program would be called Heal for America.

College graduates, it seems to me, would respond favorably to a program that would train and then use them to help diminish some of our shortcomings in clinical care and medical education.

What are some of those shortcomings in care that intelligent and reasonably trained individuals might help with in a patient’s home? Understanding of, and compliance with, a physician’s orders. Improving cleanliness in homes and helping patients with personal hygiene. Some tasks as simple as proper hand washing are frequently not done for lack of appreciation of how these practices can cut the vectors of disease or lessen their severity. The war on obesity needs to be waged. Adequate sleep explained. Exercise encouraged.

But there’s a subtle difference. Unlike TFA fellows, these HFA members “would not try to be amateur physicians, physician’s assistants or substitute registered nurses.” They wouldn’t even enter a patient’s home without the patient’s written approval. No public money would be used for HFA.

Interesting twist. Is Healey implicitly criticizing an aspect of TFA, or is he saying that medicine requires more caution than education?