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BMC medical education


INTRODUCTION: Point-of-care ultrasound (US) is used in clinical practice across many specialties. Ultrasound (US) curricula for medical students are increasingly common. Optimal timing, structure, and effect of ultrasound education during medical school remains poorly understood. This study aims to retrospectively determine the association between participation in a preclinical, longitudinal US curriculum and medical student academic performance.

METHODS: All first-year medical students at a medical school in the Midwest region of the United States were offered a voluntary longitudinal US curriculum. Participants were selected by random lottery. The curriculum consisted of five three-hour hands on-sessions with matching asynchronous content covering anatomy and pathologic findings. Content was paired with organ system blocks in the standard first year curriculum at our medical school. Exam scores between the participating and non-participating students were compared to evaluate the objective impact of US education on performance in an existing curriculum. We hypothesized that there would be an association between participation in the curriculum and improved medical student performance. Secondary outcomes included shelf exam scores for the surgery, internal medicine, neurology clerkships and USMLE Step 1. A multivariable linear regression model was used to evaluate the association of US curriculum participation with student performance. Scores were adjusted for age, gender, MCAT percentile, and science or engineering degree.

RESULTS: 76 of 178 students applied to participate in the curriculum, of which 51 were accepted. US curriculum students were compared to non-participating students (n = 127) from the same class. The US curriculum students performed better in cardiovascular anatomy (mean score 92.1 vs. 88.7, p = 0.048 after adjustment for multiple comparisons). There were no significant differences in cumulative cardiovascular exam scores, or in anatomy and cumulative exam scores for the gastroenterology and neurology blocks. The effect of US curriculum participation on cardiovascular anatomy scores was estimated to be an improvement of 3.48 points (95% CI 0.78-6.18). No significant differences were observed for USMLE Step 1 or clerkship shelf exams. There were no significant differences in either preclinical, clerkship or Step 1 score for the 25 students who applied and were not accepted and the 102 who did not apply.

CONCLUSIONS: Participation in a preclinical longitudinal US curriculum was associated with improved exam performance in cardiovascular anatomy but not examination of other cardiovascular system concepts. Neither anatomy or comprehensive exam scores for neurology and gastrointestinal organ system blocks were improved.

Medical Subject Headings

Clinical Clerkship; Curriculum; Education, Medical, Undergraduate; Educational Measurement; Humans; Internal Medicine; Retrospective Studies; Students, Medical; United States

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