7 59 CURRENT COMMENT DO MEDICAL STUDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES LEARN CLINICAL RHEUMATOLOGY? MICHAEL D. LOCKSHIN Do medical students in the United States learn clinical rheumatology? Because most patients with rheumatic disease are and will be for many years treated by physicians with no special training in this field ( l ) , the question is crucial. An answer has been sought by several committees and task forces of the American Rheumatism Association (ARA) Section of The Arthritis Foundation (AF) over the past few years. A 1975 survey conducted by the AF Professional Education Committee chaired by Gordon C. Sharp indicated that one-fourth of American medical schools have little or no capability for teaching clinical rheumatology, “capability” being defined by the respondent schools confirming the presence of faculty personnel in this field (2). (The results of this survey contrast with experience in Canada, where every medical school now has a rheumatology section.) A subsequent AF task force survey revealed a ) that many schools previously lacking rheumatology faculty did recruit rheumatologists in 1975-1976 (but some other schools lost faculty), b ) that at least three schools devoted to pri.mary care medicine do not want subspecialty sections within deFrom the Division of Rheumatic Diseases. Hospital for Special Surgery. affiliated with the New Y ork Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center. New York. New York. Michael D. Lockshin. M.D.: Associate Professor of Medicine. Address reprint requests to Michael D. Lockshin. M.D.. Hospital for Special Surgery, 535 East 70th Street, New York, New York 10021. Submitted for publication September 10, 1976: accepted September 18. 1976. Arthritis and Rheumatism, Vol. 20, No. 2 (March 1977) partments of internal medicine, and c) that the Printer or! Rkeuriiatic Diseases distributed by the A F is the major source of teaching for many students. Common disincentives to recruiting and keeping rheumatologists on staff can be identified as a ) competition for patients-usually inpatients with collagen diseases-and patient-derived laboratory income by established specialty groups within the hospital complex; b) relegation of the rheumatologist to the role of outpatient physician; and c ) reduction of his or her teaching time by forcing very large clinical, i.e. income-producing, loads. Another complaint is that departmental chairpersons do not permit expansion of small units or otherwise back-financially or administratively-the growth and training functions of these units. The quality of teaching in schools with rheumatology sections was not directly studied, but additional facets of the problem came t9 light. First, because many schools send students to outlying hospitals for their clinical training, many students may have no contact with a rheumatology section, even if there is a strong one at the major teaching hospital. Second, rheumatologic experience within the departments of pediatrics, orthopedics, and rehabilitation medicine is often nonexistent. Third, some programs confidently described as adequate by respondents were, on close review of material taught and students reached, considered by the task force to be unsatisfactory. These surveys reveal several desiderata. High priority should be assigned to establishing a rheumatology 760 section in every medical school in the United States. To d o this, a proposed AF/ARA statement of the expected responsibilities of a rheumatology section should be helpful. With this statement, AF/ARA staff could a p proach deficient schools to encourage removal of disincentives, t o aid in recruiting personnel, a n d in some cases to convince responsible personnel of the need for rheumatology training. Financial support from the A F and from the federal government, if available, may assist this effort. A second, larger, a n d longer range goal will be t o assess the quality of rheumatology teaching: who is taught, how much is h e o r she taught, a n d what is the content of the material taught? A third goal will be t o remove the deficiencies that will likely be found. Certainly, the objective of giving every medical student in LOCKSHIN the United States clinical experience under the guidance of a physician knowledgeable in rheumatology should be an achievable aim. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Members of the task forte were Michael Lockshin (Chairman). Gordon Sharp (ex-officio), Gerson Bernhard, Janice Pigg, Ralph Hinckley, and Owen Pollard. John Baum a n d J o h n Calabro contributed valuable advice. REFERENCES The Arthritis Foundation: Professional Manpower in Rheurnatology. January, 1975 (unpublished) 2. The Arthritis Foundation: Professional Education Committee Survey. June, 1975 (unpublished) 1.