David Lenihan: Medicine needs a baseball-style farm system | Guest columnists

In its early years, Major League Baseball discovered talent in what can only be described as a haphazard fashion, auditioning promising players in cornfields and hoping for the best as they took their place on big-city team rosters.

Then, about 100 years ago, everything changed. The St. Louis Cardinals, under Sam Breadon and Branch Rickey, created the farm system, which revolutionized baseball. It helped teams discover a wide swath of talent across America that wasn’t being previously captured. It gave teams the opportunity to evaluate players over time and assess them holistically. And it helped them create a deep bench as well as a reliable, data-driven way to develop promising young players.

In the process, the farm system helped take baseball from a genteel sport to the national pastime.

A hundred years after that process started in St. Louis and spread worldwide, we have the ability to use the same principles — data, a wider net, and careful talent development — to revolutionize a much more vital sector: medicine.

Changing the way we select who can enter and study in medical school will not only diversify medicine at a key time but also address a looming shortage of doctors to serve low-income rural and urban communities. The Association of American Medical Colleges this summer said the U.S. could see a shortage of as many as 139,000 physicians by 2033.

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