Educating Medical Students About Musculoskeletal Problems: Are Community Needs Reflected in the Curricula of Canadian Medical Schools?


Educating Medical Students About Musculoskeletal Problems: Are Community Needs  Reflected in the Curricula of Canadian Medical Schools?

S. J. Pinney, MD, MEd, FRCS(C) and W. D. Regan, MD, FRCS(C) S.J. Pinney, MD, MEd, FRCS(C)

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery,
University of California,
Davis, 4860 Y Street, Suite 3800,
Sacramento, CA 95817

Background:   Musculoskeletal problems are a common reason why patients present for medical treatment. The purpose of the present study was to review the curricula of Canadian medical schools to determine whether they prepare their students for the demands of practice with respect to musculoskeletal problems.

Methods:   The amount of time spent on musculoskeletal education at each of Canada’s medical schools was reviewed by surveying the directors (or equivalents) of all sixteen undergraduate musculoskeletal programs. With use of data from this survey and the Association of American Medical Colleges’ guide to curricula, the percentage of the total curriculum devoted to musculoskeletal education was determined. The prevalence of disorders related to the musculoskeletal system among patients of primary care physicians was determined on an international basis by reviewing the literature and on a local basis by surveying all primary care physicians affiliated with the University of British Columbia’s Department of Family Medicine.

Results:   The curriculum analysis revealed that, on the average, medical schools in Canada devoted 2.26% (range, 0.61% to 4.81%) of their curriculum time to musculoskeletal education. The questionnaires completed by the directors of the undergraduate programs indicated widespread dissatisfaction with the musculoskeletal education process and, specifically, with the amount of time devoted to musculoskeletal education. Our literature review and survey of local family physicians revealed that between 13.7% and 27.8% of North American patients presenting to a primary care physician have a chief symptom that is directly related to the musculoskeletal system.

Conclusion:   There is a marked discrepancy between the musculoskeletal knowledge and skill requirements of a primary care physician and the time devoted to musculoskeletal education in Canadian medical schools.