National standards in pathology education: developing competencies for integrated medical school curricula

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2014 Mar;138(3):328-32. doi: 10.5858/arpa.2013-0404-RA.


Context: Medical school education has evolved from department-specific memorization of facts to an integrated curriculum presenting knowledge in a contextual manner across traditional disciplines, integrating information, improving retention, and facilitating application to clinical practice. Integration occurs throughout medical school using live data-sharing technologies, thereby providing the student with a framework for lifelong active learning. Incorporation of educational teams during medical school prepares students for team-based patient care, which is also required for pay-for-performance models used in accountable care organizations.

Objective: To develop learning objectives for teaching pathology to medical students. Given the rapid expansion of basic science knowledge of human development, normal function, and pathobiology, it is neither possible nor desirable for faculty to teach, and students to retain, this vast amount of information. Courses teaching the essentials in context and engaging students in the learning process enable them to become lifelong learners. An appreciation of pathobiology and the role of laboratory medicine underlies the modern practice of medicine. As such, all medical students need to acquire 3 basic competencies in pathology: an understanding of disease mechanisms, integration of mechanisms into organ system pathology, and application of pathobiology to diagnostic medicine.

Design: We propose the development of 3 specific competencies in pathology to be implemented nationwide, aimed at disease mechanisms/processes, organ system pathology, and application to diagnostic medicine. Each competency will include learning objectives and a means to assess acquisition, integration, and application of knowledge. The learning objectives are designed to be a living document managed (curated) by a group of pathologists representing Liaison Committee on Medical Education-accredited medical schools nationally.

Conclusions: Development of a coherent set of learning objectives will assist medical students nationally to gain the basic competencies in pathology necessary for clinical practice. Having national standards for competencies preserves schools' independence in specific curriculum design while assuring all students meet the evolving needs of medical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum / standards*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Humans
  • Models, Educational
  • Pathology / education*
  • Program Development
  • Schools, Medical