Teaching dermatology to medical students: a survey of current practice in the U.K

Br J Dermatol. 2002 Feb;146(2):295-303. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04522.x.


Background: In 1993, the General Medical Council recommended that all medical schools should revise their curricula for undergraduate medical education and foster more interdisciplinary collaboration in teaching. In accordance with these recommendations, new curricula have been introduced in U.K. medical schools.

Objectives: To assess the impact of changes in medical curricula on the teaching of dermatology to medical undergraduates.

Methods: A questionnaire was sent to the dermatologists responsible for organizing the teaching of undergraduate dermatology in each of the 24 medical schools in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Results: Replies were received from all schools. Nineteen of the 24 schools had already introduced integrated curricula and the others were changing more slowly. Some dermatology was included in the core curriculum in all schools. Dermatologists in 14 schools contributed to the teaching of basic science and students in 18 schools were able in years 1 and 2 to see patients in primary care (14) and/or the hospital (13). In nine of these schools, students could meet dermatology patients in these early clinical sessions. Nine schools used some problem-based learning (PBL) in addition to other teaching methods, but PBL predominated in four schools and in two of these schools most students never met a dermatologist. Dermatology was a compulsory clinical attachment in 21 schools, but the length of attachments varied and was less than 5 days in four schools. Students had to pass a dermatology assessment at the end of the clinical attachment in 14 schools and there was assessment of knowledge of dermatology in final examinations in all schools. Students had an early opportunity to explore a dermatology topic in depth in 17 schools, and 20 schools offered or were planning to introduce special study modules in dermatology. Interdisciplinary teaching links were common. Resources for out-patient teaching were inadequate in 16 schools and university support poor in 10 schools. Few departments had direct access to the considerable health service funding that is paid to National Health Service Trusts to reimburse the costs of teaching medical students.

Conclusions: In general, dermatology has maintained a reasonable profile in the new undergraduate curricula, but dermatology experience is inadequate in four schools. Dermatologists should maximize opportunities for introducing dermatology into the curriculum by familiarizing themselves with the forces that are driving curriculum reform, participating in curriculum development, keeping abreast of changes in medical education and using opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Dermatology / education*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Educational Measurement / methods
  • Humans
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Teaching / methods
  • United Kingdom