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Special Communication
September 3, 2003

Educational Programs in US Medical Schools, 2002-2003

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of Undergraduate Medical Education Policy and Standards (Dr Barzansky) and Division of Graduate Medical Education (Ms Etzel), American Medical Association, Chicago, Ill.

JAMA. 2003;290(9):1190-1196. doi:10.1001/jama.290.9.1190

Context To better provide medical students with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values they will need as physicians, US medical schools continue to make ongoing changes to their staffing and curricula.

Objective To review the status of US medical education in the 2002-2003 academic year, compared with 1997-1998.

Data Sources The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) Annual Medical School Questionnaire, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Databook, and the AAMC Data Warehouse: Applicant Matriculant File. Data evaluated included those on medical school faculty, applicants, and students; curriculum hours devoted to new multidisciplinary or nontraditional subject areas (eg, cultural diversity, evidence-based medicine, medical ethics, medical informatics); and methods used to evaluate student learning.

Data Synthesis The number of full-time faculty members in the 126 LCME-accredited medical schools increased from 96 773 in 1997-1998 to 109 526 in 2002-2003 (+13.2%). The number of applicants entering decreased from 43 016 in 1997-1998 to 33 625 in 2002-2003 (−21.8%). The number of enrollees remained virtually unchanged from 1997-1998 (66 748) to 2002-2003 (66 677). Most medical schools have incorporated new subject areas into their curricula, although time devoted to these areas varies across schools. Schools typically use written examinations (National Board of Medical Examiners subject tests and/or internally prepared examinations) to assess factual knowledge, and observations by faculty members and residents to assess clinical skills. Use of standardized methods (eg, an objective structured clinical examination [OSCE]) to assess clinical skills is variable; 82 schools use a final third- or fourth-year comprehensive OSCE; 53 require a passing OSCE score for graduation.

Conclusions While the number of applicants to US medical schools has continued to decline, student numbers are constant. The number of full-time faculty members has increased. Schools are incorporating new subject areas into their curricula, and the use of standardized methods of assessing clinical skills, while variable, is generally increasing.