Health Care Analysis

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 155–170 | Cite as

Scientism in Medical Education and the Improvement of Medical Care: Opioids, Competencies, and Social Accountability

  • Lynette Reid
Original Article


Scientism in medical education distracts educators from focusing on the content of learning; it focuses attention instead on individual achievement and validity in its measurement. I analyze the specific form that scientism takes in medicine and in medical education. The competencies movement attempts to challenge old “scientistic” views of the role of physicians, but in the end it has invited medical educators to focus on validity in the measurement of individual performance for attitudes and skills that medicine resists conceptualizing as objective. Academic medicine should focus its efforts instead on quality and relevance of care. The social accountability movement proposes to shift the focus of academic medicine to the goal of high quality and relevant care in the context of community service and partnership with the institutions that together with medicine create and cope with health and with health deficits. I make the case for this agenda through a discussion of the linked histories of the opioid prescribing crisis and the professionalism movement.


Medical education Social accountability Health equity Professionalism Opioid prescribing Scientism 



This study was funded by academic salary.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BioethicsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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