In many professions, “difference of opinion” is code for “all out conflict” or “war.” When you “agree to disagree,” you are often agreeing to part ways. This is the case in the political arena, where campaigns, interest groups, and even research organizations are often partisan, and even in the corporate world, where Boards of Directors and executives are chosen because of a shared vision of leadership. In our medical school class, we often agree to disagree, and our differences of opinion lead to thought-provoking and lively conversations. The differences of opinion I have with my classmates will make me a better physician.
A few weeks ago, we discussed motivation interviewing in our clinical medicine class. As a classmate and I walked out of Richard Jones Hall, I expressed an opinion on the lecture, and was surprised that he passionately and coherently expressed a different point of view. Should doctors confront their patients about harmful behaviors? What are the risks of doing so, and what should the practical and ethical considerations be? As we talked, several classmates joined us. Some contributed their perspectives, and many just listened. After a recent exam, a few of us discussed the best ways for scholarship monies to be divided amongst medical students. Should financial aid be merit based, need based, both, or neither? What other factors should be considered? Not only were we able to agree to disagree over this potentially contentious issue, the conversation continued within our class and with the administration. In fact, the administration has joined our conversation several times, when members of our class expressed strong opinions about our curriculum and its evolution. What say should we have in the changes to our curriculum? How accountable is the administration to its students?