and social science courses because not all schools provided the information (AAMC, 2003a) or because the course content and teaching methods could not be identified from the course title. Dartmouth Medical School, for example, offers a course during the second year called On Doctoring that aims to improve students’ communication skills through participating in small-group role-playing, visiting patients, and using standardized patients2 (Cochran and Schiffman, 2003; Dube et al., 2000). However, a search of course titles for the word “communication” would yield a list on which Dartmouth would not appear, whereas the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine would be included because it offers a course entitled Cell Communication and Signaling (AAMC, 2003a).
This example demonstrates the impossibility of using currently available data to conduct a systematic review of behavioral and social science content in the curricula of the 126 U.S. medical schools. To compound these difficulties, unless medical school data are regularly updated in the only current national database (CurrMIT), they cannot be considered accurate or useful for analyzing the state of behavioral and social science education in medical schools. A change in funding, for example, can drastically alter course content, faculty, and teaching methods, even though the curriculum and course titles may remain the same. In fact, a study at the University of Kansas found a 30–37 percent discrepancy between what course directors say is being taught about prevention in the curriculum and what trained student observers have witnessed in the class (Dismuke and McClary, 2000).
Within the limitations of the available data, as described above, the committee pursued its charge of taking an inventory of current behavioral and social science content in medical school curricula by compiling the available data and using indicators to signify the presence, intensity, location, and adequacy of such content. Tables 2-2a, b, and c summarize the results of these efforts. Although it would be desirable to compare the data in these three tables, such analysis is not recommended given that the data come from different sources that utilize varying collection methods and data analyses.
The “Selected LCME Hot Topics” column in each table lists some of the topics on which the LCME focuses in the medical school self-study that is conducted the year before a formal accreditation visit and at the accreditation visit itself. The committee chose these topics as the framework for examining the state of the behavioral and social sciences in medical school curricula because they are