History of Medicine in US Medical School Curricula

UMMS Affiliation

School of Medicine; Department of Anesthesiology

Publication Date


Document Type



Anesthesia and Analgesia | Anesthesiology | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Medical Education


STUDY OBJECTIVE: To determine the extent to which the history of medicine (HOM) and its related topics are included within the curriculum of accredited medical schools in the United States.

DESIGN: Survey instrument.

SETTING: US allopathic medical schools.

MEASUREMENTS: An online survey was sent to officials from every medical school in the US. Respondents were asked to provide institutional identifiers, the presence of an HOM elective offered to medical students, the years during which the elective is offered, the existence of an HOM department, and the contact information for that particular department. Nonresponders were contacted by phone to elicit the same information. History of medicine electives included didactic sessions and seminars with varying degrees of credit offered in different years of medical school.

MAIN RESULTS: Based on responses from 119 of 121 contacted medical schools (98%), 45 (37%) included formal lectures or weekly seminars in the medical school curriculum. Five (11%) curricula had or have required HOM, whereas 89% offered elective HOM instruction. Course duration and credit awarded varied. Eighteen (15%) medical schools included departments dedicated to HOM. Providing education in HOM was limited by faculty interest, clinical training hours, and low interest.

CONCLUSIONS: Data collected by our study suggest that substantial barriers exist within the academic medical community towards a wider acceptance of the importance of HOM. Causes for such lack of interest include absence of questions on written or oral tests related to HOM, difficulty in publishing articles related to HOM in peer reviewed journals, near absence of research grants in HOM, difficulty in getting academic promotions or recognition for activities related to HOM, and a lack of support from academic chairpersons for activities related to HOM.

DOI of Published Version



J Anesth Hist. 2015 Oct;1(4):111-4. doi: 10.1016/j.janh.2015.02.010. Epub 2015 May 15. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of anesthesia history

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID