An Oral Health Curriculum for Medical Students at the University of Washington


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Abstract

Oral health disparities are a major public health problem, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Physicians could help prevent oral disease, but lack the knowledge to do so. To create an oral health curriculum for medical students at the University of Washington School of Medicine, the authors (beginning in 2003) (1) reviewed current evidence of medical education and physician training in oral health, (2) developed oral health learning objectives and competencies appropriate for medical students, and (3) identified current oral health content in the undergraduate curriculum and opportunities for including additional material. The authors identified very few Medline articles on medical student education and training in oral health. The United States Medical Licensing Examination Steps 2 and 3 require specific clinical knowledge and skills in oral and dental disorders, but other national curriculum databases and the Web site of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education devote no significant attention to oral health. To develop learning objectives, the authors reviewed major oral health reports, online oral health educational resources, and consulted with dental faculty. The curriculum was assessed by interviewing key medical school faculty and analyzing course descriptions, and was found to be deficient in oral health content. The authors developed five learning themes: dental public health, caries, periodontal disease, oral cancer, and oral–systemic interactions, and recommend the inclusion of corresponding competencies in targeted courses through a spiral curriculum. Current progress, the timeline for curriculum changes at the University of Washington, and the ethical values and attitudinal shifts needed to support this effort are discussed.

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