A focused curriculum in surgical oncology for the third-year medical students

William R. Wisniewski, Keith F. Fournier, Yan K. Ling, Rebecca S. Slack, Gildy Babiera, Elizabeth G. Grubbs, Laura J. Moore, Jason B. Fleming, Y. Nancy You

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Background: Educating medical students in surgical subspecialty fields can be challenging, and the optimal timing and curriculum remain unknown. Despite advocacy for earlier exposure, competing core clerkship rotations often leave little time for subspecialty fields. We report our experience with a novel, short, and focused curriculum in surgical oncology for the third-year medical students. Methods: A 2-wk (2009-2010) and a 4-wk (2010-2011) curriculum in surgical oncology were developed for the third-year students at a tertiary-referral cancer center, including formal didactics, rotation in clinical service of students' choosing (breast, gastrointestinal, endocrine, or melanoma), and case-based learning and presentation. Paired pre-and postrotation questionnaires were prospectively completed, including 20 items assessing knowledge and four items assessing experience. Grading was anonymous, and change in score was assessed by Wilcoxon signed-rank test. Results: Paired questionnaires from47 students (2-wk rotation, n = 26; 4-wk rotation, n = 21) showed a median improvement of three points (21.4%) from pre-to posttests (P < 0.001). The improvement did not differ by the length of rotation or by the specific clinical service. Nearly all (93%) reported a positive and inspiring experience. The most valuable avenue of learning was reported as the time spent with resident or fellow or attending (92%), followed by self-directed reading (62%) and didactic lectures (28%). Conclusions: A short and focused curriculum in surgical oncology, including structured didactics and clinical rotation, had positive impact for the third-year students. Given the increasing work-hour limits, it is important to note that the time spent in the clinical setting continues to be ranked as the most educationally valuable by medical students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-560
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Medical curriculum
  • Medical education
  • Medical school
  • Surgical oncology
  • Third-year surgery clerkship
  • Work-hour limitations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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