Effect of a required online graded curriculum in the clerkship years on medical student national standardized examination performance

J Osteopath Med. 2021 Jun 4. doi: 10.1515/jom-2020-0298. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Context: Many medical schools have a distributed model for clinical clerkship education, challenging our ability to determine student gaps during clinical education. With the graduating class of 2017, A.T. Still University's School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA) began requiring additional online curricula for all clerkship courses.

Objectives: To determine whether third year and fourth year students receiving ATSU-SOMA's online curricula during core clerkships performed better overall on national standardized examinations than students from previous years who had not received the curricula, and whether scores from online coursework correlated with outcomes on standardized examinations as possible early predictors of success.

Methods: This retrospective cohort study analyzed existing data (demographics and assessments) from ATSU-SOMA classes of 2017-2020 (curriculum group) and 2014-2016 (precurriculum group). The effect of the curriculum on national standardized examinations (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Achievement Test [COMAT] and Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States [COMLEX-USA]) was estimated using augmented inverse probability weighting (AIPW). Correlations between assignment scores and national standardized examinations were estimated using linear regression models.

Results: The curriculum group had 405 students with a mean (standard deviation [SD]) age of 25.7 (±3.1) years. Two hundred and fifteen (53.1%) students in the curriculum group were female and 190 (46.9%) were male. The precurriculum group had 308 students (mean ± SD age, 26.4 ± 4.2 years; 157 [51.0%] male; 151 [49.0%] female). The online curriculum group had higher COMAT clinical subject exam scores in obstetrics and gynecology, osteopathic principles and practice (OPP), psychiatry, and surgery (all p≤0.04), as well as higher COMLEX-USA Level 2-Cognitive Evaluation (CE) family medicine and OPP subscores (both p≤0.03). The curriculum group had a 9.4 point increase in mean total COMLEX-USA Level 2-CE score (p=0.08). No effect was found for the curriculum overall on COMAT mean or COMLEX-USA Level 2-Performance Evaluation scores (all p≥0.11). Total coursework scores in each core clerkship, excluding pediatrics, were correlated with COMAT mean score (all adjusted p≤0.03). Mean scores for five of the seven assignment types in core clerkships, excluding evidence based medicine types, were positively correlated with COMAT mean scores (all adjusted p≤0.049). All assignment types correlated with COMLEX-USA Level 2-CE total score (all adjusted p≤0.04), except interprofessional education (IPE).

Conclusions: Results from this study of 713 students from ATSU-SOMA suggested that our online curriculum supplemented clinic based learning during clerkship courses and improved student outcomes on national standardized examinations.

Keywords: COMAT; COMLEX-USA; clerkship; curriculum; medical education; performance.