Design, implementation, and evaluation of a longitudinal cancer curriculum

Mary E. Costanza, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Victoria P. Gaw, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Document Type Article


The University of Massachusetts Medical School's two year preclinical curriculum is organized by organ system and controlled by the basic science departments. It is followed by two years of required and elective clinical clerkships. An evaluation of cancer teaching in the preclinical curriculum using criteria derived from the Cancer Education Objectives for Medical Schools was conducted. Deficiencies in cancer teaching were documented and the need for an organized cancer education program established. The administration then allotted 18 hours for cancer teaching spread over the two years of the preclinical curriculum. Supported by an R25 Cancer Education Grant, the Longitudinal Cancer course (LCC), was developed in an attempt to effectively utilize the scattered class time to meet a significant number of American Association for Cancer Education Objectives. In addition, interdisciplinary teaching of the more common cancers was facilitated and faculty were supported in their use of cancer related examples to illustrate relevant materials in the basic sciences. Evaluation of the LCC after a three-year trial has shown that, without strong administrative support, it is a very inefficient method of cancer teaching. While students appreciated class content and met a significant number of course objectives, they found the longitudinal format of the course unsatisfactory and recommended that the course be consolidated into a block. R25 grant support was being sought to implement a proposal to consolidate cancer teaching when the R25 program was suspended. Without external support, implementation will be difficult because it will require serious disruption of an established course. Such a change will require resources that are not readily available in this era of fiscal constraint.