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A Searchable Database of Medical Education Objectives - Creating a Comparable Gold Standard


A Searchable Database of Medical Education Objectives - Creating a Comparable Gold Standard

Sam Brooks et al. BMC Med Educ.


Background: Medical school curricula strives to teach as much material as can be retained in a limited amount of time. A common "gold standard" resource used building curricula are medical objectives suggested by national societies. Unfortunately these objectives suffer from several functional limitations such as limited accessibility to society members, non-searchable formats (such as nested tables or pdf images), and inability to compare and search across societal objectives for redundancy or gaps. The shift towards integrated curriculums in medical school also highlights the need to access suggested content across classical discipline categories.

Main body: We have codified recommendations from national societies in the United States for medical school objectives in a common tabular format and developed an open access database which can be searched across disciplines and societies. A front end website that allows for searching objectives by keyword while filtering on society or discipline was created. The objectives returned from the initial search can be subsearched by a second term. There is a large range in the format, age, breadth, quantity, and quality of objectives from different societies. Some unique disciplines have overlapping suggested content though most of the content does seem "binnable" by discipline. The choice of metadata for objectives from each given society was also very inconsistent.

Conclusion: A free and searchable database of medical content to deliver during medical school has been developed with over 13,000 objectives from 18 societies and 22 disciplines at . The normalization of the different disciplines' objectives into a common database allows a platform to standardize objectives moving forward. Future work could include adding user accounts to access the database, submission of new objectives, voting up and down suggested objectives, and adding "answers" mapped to objectives. Keyword tagging could allow import of content (e.g. PowerPoints) and outputting of suggested objectives, which would also allow comparison of curriculum across medical schools.

Keywords: Curricula; Curriculum; Database; Integrated; Learning; Medical; Objectives; Topics.

Conflict of interest statement

Authors’ information

Correspondence should be addressed to Sage Arbor, Department of Biological Sciences, Marian University, College of Osteopathic Medicine, 3200 Cold Spring Rd., Indianapolis, IN 46222; telephone: (317) 955–6268; e-mail:

Dr. Arbor is assistant professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Indianapolis Indiana.

Sam Brooks and Namita Biala are 3rd year medical students, Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Indianapolis Indiana.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

The objectives used in the database for this article were either attained from publications under a creative commons license or we directly attained approval from the societies which had published the objectives. The only password protected source, from American Biochemistry Educators (ABE), was made public at the request of the author and in conjunction with inclusion in this database.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Number of Objectives by Discipline and Society. The number of suggested objectives per discipline varied by more than 100 fold (18 to 2861), and even within a single discipline varied up to 10 fold. Disciplines which only had objectives suggested by one society are shown by blue bars and are less likely to have redundant content suggested. Disciplines which had objectives listed redundantly in the database by more than one society are colored as follows: orange = behavioral sciences, red = genetics, and green = gerontology

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