Background: Few data exist comparing medical student surgical education programs across the US and Canada. We conducted a 30-question, Web-based survey of 142 medical schools in the US and Canada about the administration of undergraduate surgical education programs at their institutions. Study Design: From October 2005 to January 2006, 142 Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) medical schools in the US and Canada were asked to complete a 30-item, Web-based questionnaire. Descriptive statistics were compiled for all responses and data were analyzed using Student's t-test. Results: One hundred two medical schools responded to the survey (90 of 125 US and 12 of 17 Canadian schools, overall response rate, = 72%). The majority of surgical clerkships have between 16 and 30 students rotating at a time through 2 to 4 teaching sites. The most frequent overall clerkship duration was 8 weeks, divided most frequently between a 4- to 6-week general surgery rotation and a 4-week subspecialty rotation. There was no consensus about what services constitute general surgery rotations, although the most common subspecialty rotations were urology (68%) and orthopaedics (66%). American medical schools were more likely to use the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) subject examination for student assessment (90.9% US versus 50.0% Canadian, p < 0.05); Canadian medical schools were more likely to use an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (69.2% Canadian versus 37.7% US, p < 0.05) and other written examinations (69.2% Canadian versus 37.7% US, p < 0.05). Conclusions: There is wide variation in the structure and administration of medical student surgical education programs in the US and Canada. These findings underscore the need for a clerkship directors committee and a national dialog about a core student curriculum to ensure consistency in the quality of student education in surgery.
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