NEED FOR AN IMPROVED DATABASE ON THE STATUS OF BEHAVIORAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCE INSTRUCTION IN U.S. MEDICAL SCHOOLS

The review of the current literature and the available data conducted for this report revealed that medical school courses incorporating the behavioral and social sciences vary greatly in their titles, the teaching methods used, and the hours devoted to these topics. This variation reflects the breadth of the behavioral and social sciences and their application to the practice of medicine, the differing needs of communities, and the preferences and expertise of faculty members. National empirical data based on voluntary reporting by schools of medicine (from the CurrMIT database) and accreditation data (from LCME) confirm the variability in subject matter from topic to topic and school to school. The lack of national standardization among medical school curricula, of standardization in the terminology used to describe curricular content, and of a comprehensive strategy for creating a national database of medical school curricula makes it difficult to describe systematically the subject matter medical schools have incorporated into their curricula.

The committee believes the creation of an improved, periodically updated database for information on the state of behavioral and social science instruction in U.S. medical schools would be of significant benefit. An alternative to creating a new database would be to modify CurrMIT to produce these data. Because both are major undertakings, the decision to develop a new database or modify CurrMIT should be based on which method best collects behavioral and social science teaching information within the available resources. Individual medical schools could use this database to compare their coverage of the behavioral and social sciences with that of other institutions to determine whether their curricular content, teaching methods, or means of evaluating student performance need revision. Credentialing bodies could use the database to compare what is actually being taught with the subject matter that is assessed by their evaluation instruments. Government agencies and professional organizations concerned with improving the quality of behavioral and social science instruction and ensuring that new physicians have been exposed to important research findings would also find the database helpful.

The committee believes AAMC is the logical organization to design and operate such a database, as it has access to and is respected by all U.S. allopathic medical schools, and its staff has considerable experience and expertise in data collection and analysis. AAMC should consider collaborating with other relevant professional organizations, such as the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and LCME, in the design and operation of the database.

It is beyond the scope of the committee’s charge to specify the data that should be collected, the collection methodology, or the types of analyses that should be performed—matters that would best be decided by those using the



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