Pilot study exploring the presence of leadership curricula in undergraduate medical education

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BMJ Leader


Introduction The physician’s role in the healthcare delivery system extends beyond patient care to include numerous critical leadership roles in healthcare. In addition to treating patients, physicians manage multidisciplinary teams and influence policies to optimise public health. Yet, leadership education is not currently emphasised as part of undergraduate medical education. The purpose of this pilot study was to survey US allopathic medical schools about their current leadership curricula for medical students, including aspects that promote or inhibit effective curricular implementation. Methods A survey was developed and administered to representatives at US allopathic medical schools regarding the presence and nature of leadership curricula for medical students currently in place, as well as barriers to effective implementation. Results A total of 41 of 144 medical schools (28%) responded to the survey. Of the schools that responded, 25 schools reported the presence of a leadership curriculum. Primary competencies and goals were similar among these institutions, but the structure of the curriculum and how it is being implemented varied. The study did not identify consistent methods of assessing student leadership competencies. Themes of improved communication and integration within the curriculum emerged as actions promoting successful implementation. Financial restraints and buy-in among stakeholder groups (eg, faculty, staff and students) were mentioned most frequently as barriers to the effective implementation of leadership curricula. Conclusions Although leadership education within undergraduate medical education is emphasised by a variety of groups, including the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical schools do not appear to universally address this topic. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the primary accrediting body for medical schools, does not currently require leadership education as a core topic for accreditation. To provide effective education on leadership to medical students, administrative bodies could improve their support for this topic by considering the factors identified that both hinder and promote implementation.

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