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Creating an ideal social and behavioural sciences curriculum for medical students

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Medical Education 2010: 44: 1194–1202 Objectives 

Undergraduate medical education programmes universally struggle with overfull curricula that make curricular changes quite challenging. Final content decisions are often influenced by available faculty staff, vocal champions or institutional culture. We present a multi-modal process for identifying ‘need-to-know’ content while leveraging curricular change, using the social and behavioural sciences (SBS) as an exemplar. Methods 

Several multi-modal approaches were used to identify and triangulate core SBS curricula, including: a national survey of 204 faculty members who ranked the content importance of each of the SBS content areas; a comprehensive review of leading medical SBS textbooks; development of an algorithm to assess the strength of evidence for and potential clinical impact of each SBS construct; solicitation of student input, and review of guidelines from national advocacy organisations. To leverage curricular change, curriculum mapping was used to compare the school’s ‘actual’ SBS curriculum with an ‘ideal’ SBS curriculum to highlight educational needs and areas for revision. Clinical clerkship directors assisted in translating core SBS content into relevant clinical competencies. Results 

Essential SBS content areas were identified along with more effective and efficient ways of teaching SBS within a medical setting. The triangulation of several methods to identify content raised confidence in the resulting content list. Mapping actual versus ideal SBS curricula highlighted both current strengths and weaknesses and identified opportunities for change. Conclusions 

This multi-modal, several-stage process of generating need-to-know curricular content and comparing it with current practices helped promote curricular changes in SBS, a content area that has been traditionally difficult to teach and is often under-represented. It is likely that this process can be generalised to other emerging or under-represented topic areas.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA 2: Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA 3: Department of Pediatrics, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA 4: Division of Hospital Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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