1984); and whether or not the behavioral and social sciences are fully integrated1 into students’ 4-year education depends on the institution (Waldstein et al., 2001). A few medical schools do offer curricula in which behavioral and social science material is included in all 4 years of medical education, rather than being confined to the preclinical years. It appears more common, however, that behavioral and social science courses are taught during the first 2 years. In 2000, only 8 percent of the 62 U.S. medical schools that responded to a survey about their curricula reported that they had integrated programs of behavioral medicine that stressed the effects of human behavior on health and illness using a biopsychosocial model (Brook et al., 2000).
The Curriculum Management and Information Tool (CurrMIT) database of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is the most comprehensive tool available for collecting and analyzing the content of medical school curricula. However, it is a voluntary system, and not all medical schools participate. It is designed to allow medical schools to examine the full spectrum of their curricula, track key trends, support innovations, and compare local curricula with those of other medical schools (AAMC, 1999a). Schools have flexibility regarding how they enter their data in the CurrMIT database, depending on program needs. As a result, data entry formats vary from school to school, as do the level of detail and the degree to which the information is updated. Currently, only 67 medical schools have entered course titles related to the behavioral and social sciences into the CurrMIT database (AAMC, personal communication, September 2003).
In response to its charge, the committee developed several conclusions and recommendations aimed at enhancing the incorporation of the behavioral and social sciences into medical school curricula. These conclusions and recommendations, as well as strategies for accomplishing the specific tasks outlined in the committee’s charge, are presented below.
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