Progress Report: The Prevalence of Required Medical School Instruction in Musculoskeletal Medicine at Decade’s End

Joseph Bernstein MD, Grant Hoerig Garcia BA, Jose Luis Guevara BA, Grant W. Mitchell BA
Basic Research
Volume 469, Issue 3 / March , 2010



In a 2003 report, required courses in musculoskeletal medicine were found in only 65 of the 122 medical schools in the United States. Since then, national efforts to promote musculoskeletal medicine education were led by the US Bone and Joint Decade, the American Medical Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and the National Board of Medical Examiners, among others. Whether these efforts resulted in any changes in curricula is unclear.


We assessed the change, if any, in the prevalence of required instruction in musculoskeletal medicine, which might be attributed to these reform efforts.


Curriculum requirements were ascertained by an email survey sent to all 127 medical schools in the United States and from the schools’ websites. The presence of a preclinical course or block dedicated to musculoskeletal medicine was noted. Likewise, the requirement for a clerkship in a musculoskeletal discipline (comprising orthopaedic surgery, rheumatology, or physical medicine) was recorded.


One hundred of the 127 medical schools in the United States had required preclinical courses in musculoskeletal medicine. Among the schools without such a course, six had a required musculoskeletal clerkship. Thus, 106 schools had some requirement, with only 21 (17%) lacking required instruction in musculoskeletal medicine. This rate compares favorably with the 47% rate (57 of the 122 schools) reported previously.


The prevalence of required instruction in musculoskeletal medicine is greater compared with the prevalence reported in previous studies. Musculoskeletal medicine appears to have attained a more prominent place in the curriculum at most schools.