United States medical students' knowledge of Alzheimer disease

J Educ Eval Health Prof. 2013 May 27;10:4. doi: 10.3352/jeehp.2013.10.4. Print 2013.


Purpose: A knowledge gap exists between general physicians and specialists in diagnosing and managing Alzheimer disease (AD). This gap is concerning due to the estimated rise in prevalence of AD and cost to the health care system. Medical school is a viable avenue to decrease the gap, educating future physicians before they specialize. The purpose of this study was to assess the knowledge level of students in their first and final years of medical school.

Methods: Fourteen participating United States medical schools used e-mail student rosters to distribute an online survey of a quantitative cross-sectional assessment of knowledge about AD; 343 students participated. Knowledge was measured using the 12-item University of Alabama at Birmingham AD Knowledge Test for Health Professionals. General linear models were used to examine the effect of demographic variables and previous experience with AD on knowledge scores.

Results: Only 2.5% of first year and 68.0% of final year students correctly scored ten or more items on the knowledge scale. Personal experience with AD predicted higher knowledge scores in final year students (P= 0.027).

Conclusion: Knowledge deficiencies were common in final year medical students. Future studies to identify and evaluate the efficacy of AD education programs in medical schools are warranted. Identifying and disseminating effective programs may help close the knowledge gap.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Dementia; Educational measurement; Medical education; Physician assessment; Physician training.