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Decision-Making Competencies in Engineering and Medicine

[+] Author Affiliations
Franz-Josef Kahlen, George Swingler

University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

Anabela C. Alves

University of Minho, Guimarães, Portugal

Shannon Flumerfelt

Oakland University, Rochester, MI

Paper No. IMECE2014-39891, pp. V011T14A053; 8 pages
  • ASME 2014 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 11: Systems, Design, and Complexity
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada, November 14–20, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4960-6
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME


A number of studies conducted since the turn of the millennium have identified several deficits in engineering education; the most widely cited are deficits in critical analysis, systems thinking, and visualizing non-linear cause-effect chains. The field of engineering education has undergone a number of notable changes in response to such identified deficits but recent field studies such as Vision 2030 identified remaining shortfalls in engineering competencies as well as significant discrepancies in the perception of the severity of these deficits. While academic engineering programs feel that their programs adequately prepare engineering students for the practice of engineering, entry-level hiring managers disagree.

In the practice of medicine, decision-making in practicing physicians is a critical competency which can make the difference between appropriate and incorrect diagnoses, and may affect the patient’s well-being or his life. Making a decision for an appropriate treatment plan in the face of insufficient or contradicting data points often times is compounded by the fact that time-scales can be significantly shorter than in the case of a machine design project. And while the majority of patients is discharged from hospital care in better health, medical professionals and educators are questioning their own approach to decision making in light of technological advances affecting their disciplines, and because of an improved understanding of the biochemistry and opportunities of genetic manipulations of the human body. Therefore, the field of medical decision making is also undergoing an overhaul in the education and training of medical students.

This paper contrasts the current decision-making competencies that are imparted as part of the respective fields’ academic education, identifies the challenges in each discipline, and identifies opportunities for cross-pollination of better practices to develop decision-making competencies.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME



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