Being Productively Stupid in Medicine Means Getting to Cures Quicker

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How do we make doctors and scientists better critical thinkers? By getting them comfortable with the idea that being stupid about a topic is OK and even desirable if it’s managed the right way. In fact, many of the problems in medicine can be traced back to physicians not being comfortable with the idea of not knowing everything..

The above editorial in the Journal of Cell Science applies to so many areas: research, medicine, your career, life in general. Basically, the idea is that placing yourself in situations where you don’t know which end is up or feel stupid is the only way that research and medicine advances. The same holds true to taking on challenging assignments in life or your job. The problem? We teach people to be fearful of being stupid, rather than using it as a rallying cry to learn more.

In my area of medicine, I see few leaders who are willing to push the envelope of what we know. Instead, I see many that follow whatever the sales reps bring them even if it’s not a good solution for the patient. In the same way, physicians are very uncomfortable with saying “I don’t know”. Fewer still use that as a rallying cry to hit the books or the Internet and push the envelope of what they know.

The upshot? While this is a short vacation blog, read the editorial above. It’s a rallying cry for us all to realize that feeling stupid if it’s used productively, is a great motivator. It can lead to new cures or just increasing your understanding of a hard to learn subject!

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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