So far as I know, the infernal USMLE is still in force, which means medical students have a ton of junk to stuff into their brains long enough to vomit it back on to the test in hopes of doing well enough to pass, and maybe surpass their colleagues.  

But no, enter Jennifer Talbott, a third-year medical student at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona, with clearly too much time on her hands.  Ms. Talbott  admonishes, “As future health care providers, it’s important we learn about trafficking early  instead of five or ten years into our careers when maybe a dozen victims have slipped past us unnoticed.”  Talbott and her pals did a bunch of Googling to figure out how many sex trafficking article target med students, and found the answer woefully inadequate. 

“The review authors call for a standardized curriculum on sex trafficking to help close the gap in medical education.”  That “gap” is one presumed by the purported researchers who have a self-interest in demonstrating such a gap, and thereby, their own usefulness.

Talbott and her classmates think that this pervasive and growing topic could be adequately presented to non-law enforcement officers in a one-hour lecture. 

Shah suggests that in that one hour, students should be taught to identify red flags like unexplained injuries, signs of depression and anxiety, suicide attempts and malnourishment. 

 Dr. Asim Shah, professor of psychiatry at the Baylor College of Medicine thinks “students should be taught to identify red flags like unexplained injuries, signs of depression and anxiety, suicide attempts and malnourishment.”  “They also need to know traffickers abuse patients and control them, so if you have a patient accompanied by an older person who is not willing to leave the room, question it,” Shah said. 

That’s all well and good for residents with some clinical basics.  But all of these “red flags” could include so many other conditions, that increasing focus on this latest diagnosis célèbre could diminish attention paid to more staid, less topical conditions such as substance abuse, anorexia, domestic abuse, and on, and on…  In Florida, we all have to complete periodic CME’s on HIV care and domestic violence, even though those topics don’t apply to every specialty.  That came about via politics, grievance groups pressuring politicians into showing they are “doing something.”  Combine an earnest medical student with some faculty members who want some more grant money and more published articles, and before you know it, this stuff becomes another core measure.  

At this point, more tender readers will wonder what’s wrong with an earnest young student who (sniff) is trying to make the world better, and why am I in favor of sex trafficking.

So relax – I am definitely against sex trafficking.  And to a lesser extent, I am also against do-gooder medical students trying to come up with more work for those who should first be learning the bare bones of medical practice well before looking for variations and zebras in every clinical encounter (we’ve all been bad enough at that anyway).  It’s laudable that Talbott has the interest; it would also be nice if she didn’t seek to bang her classmates over the head with it. 

Can we compromise?

Maybe with their self-documented extra levels of compassion, and all that extra time on their hands, this is one we could hand off to the nurse practitioners?

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