Ensuring the Legacy of Men’s Health

It’s got sea legs! Even better than that, it’s now walking and talking. After being dutifully raised, nurtured and primed for the past 7 years, it is now contributing to the betterment of society.
No, it’s not my daughters…they’re still quite young. It’s the urology teaching program for medvical students. And, as the founder of this nation wide initiative, I am now passing the baton to trusted colleagues to help it fly even higher.

Houston, We Have a Problem

Don’t you love it when simple thoughts and dreams becomes reality? It doesn’t happen often in life, but it did here. Almost a decade ago, two lowly professors, Dr. Price Kerfoot at Harvard and myself at UCSF, were grappling with the fact that our fabulous field, urology, just wasn’t getting taught in medical schools anymore. Here are the facts we faced: 60 years ago, 99% of medical schools required urology training in medical schools. Woefully, this number had fallen to 17% of schools in 2004 and is a measly 5% today. Hard to understand how molecular pharmacogenomics could push twisted testicles right out of the curriculum. Scary.
It’s not that every medical student should be a urologist (boy, would we rule the world!), it’s just that students really need to know some basic things about what we do, no matter what field in medicine they choose to practice. Examples are: urinary tract infections, kidney stones, erectile dysfunction, incontinence and prostate cancer, to name a few. Trust me, everyone knows someone with one of these issues. Just ask.

Enter the Ghostbusters

To solve this issue, Dr. Kerfoot and I published a study in which we asked key stakeholders in medicine what every medical student should know about our field before they graduate. To our delight, among the many odd Topics in urology proposed by ER docs, family medicinists, internists, pediatricians and urologists, 10 of them were on everyone’s list. Voila! These became the core content areas of the program we would develop.
Since it made perfect sense to put this educational tool online and make it widely available, I approached our national society of urologists (AUA) and asked them to host the program on their website. They agreed. After posting, the site zoomed in popularity, maybe because we added some neat widgets like cool videos, interactive clinical cases featuring Indiana Jones, Elvis Presley and Austin Powers, and a way cool learning technique called spaced education.

The Man Exam

For the last 5 years, I led a national committee to monitor and improve the student site. With the goal of making it relevant to today’s students, new and novel content was added: a “GU-Tube” video section that includes surgical procedures and films portraying “a day in the life of” practicing urologists, an app that has been well received, and an endearing video entitled “Why Urology?” that has garnered several international awards, including a Platinum “Best of Show” for excellence in the communication industry. Not only that, the little-curriculum-that-could is now routinely used by 31% of American medical schools! Talk about impact. Makes a father proud.
But the crowning achievement of the program is our latest product: the creation of an interactive video that teaches the male physical examination in detail. Believe it or not, for the life of us, we could not find anywhere on the web or in academic centers, a good tool to teach this crucial skill to medical students. So we poured our entire committee budget and 2 years of time into creating a video masterpiece to fulfill this need.
I predict that the value of this particular tool will go far beyond medical schools and be used by medical providers of all kinds, be it nurses, physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners. And, as providers become less fearful of performing a thorough physical exam on men, then men will get better health care in the future, something that’s desperately needed. And that’s a legacy that I will hold dear for the rest of my professional life.