Otolaryngology in undergraduate medical education

Adrienne Wong, Kevin Fung
Journal of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery 2009, 38 (1): 38-48

OBJECTIVES: Otolaryngologic problems are common in primary care but are underrepresented in undergraduate medical education (UME). A significant portion of the total structured teaching received by physicians in primary care specialties is spent in UME, but teaching of otolaryngology in UME is limited and not standardized across Canadian medical schools. This study assessed the content and structure of otolaryngology UME at Canadian undergraduate medical programs and postgraduate primary care programs and surveyed community otolaryngologists to identify important clinical topics for inclusion in an otolaryngology curriculum.

METHODS: A survey was created based on previously validated and published curriculum needs assessment instruments for medical education. Surveys were distributed to (1) undergraduate directors of otolaryngology, (2) postgraduate program directors of family and emergency medicine at English-language medical schools, and (3) community otolaryngologists in Canada.

RESULTS: There is large variation in the quantity of otolaryngology teaching in UME. Knowledge of otolaryngology is formally evaluated at half of the responding programs, although skills in otolaryngology are rarely tested. Clerkship rotations are not uniformly offered, and the length of these placements is limited. Opportunities in postgraduate training for formal education in otolaryngology are rare. Several important topics that are not uniformly taught include sudden sensorineural hearing loss, sleep apnea, and nasal trauma. Important skills that are not uniformly taught include treatment of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo and epistaxis.

CONCLUSIONS: There is limited time for teaching otolaryngology in UME; therefore, it is essential to emphasize teaching key topics and skills, which are highlighted in the results of this study.

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