After a 12 item survey surveying all 126 US Medical schools asking nutritional educators to characterize nutritional instruction at their medical schools and quantify nutrition, a total of 106 surveys were returned (84% return rate). 99 of the 106 schools required some form of nutritional training, but only 32 school (30%) required separate nutritional courses. Only 40 schools required the minimum 25 hours recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, and 88% of the instructors expressed the need for additional nutrition instruction at their institutions.
Bottom line: The amount of nutrition education in medical schools remains inadequate.
The NAS report concluded that “Nutrition education programs in US medical schools are largely inadequate to meet the present and future demands of the medical profession.” This report has been called groundbreaking because it was the first comprehensive and systematic assessment of the status of nutrition education at medical schools that helped to identify the deficiencies. Publication of the report prompted the inclusion of medical education in the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 and emphasized the need for physicians to be educated on nutrition topics.
According to the 106 respondents, the curricula of 99 schools (93%) provided required nutrition instruction. Five schools (5%) offered optional instruction only, and another 2 (2%) reported that they did not offer any nutrition instruction. The schools requiring nutrition instruction provided an average of 23.9 (range: 2–70) contact hours. Remarkably, less than one-half (41%) of the responding schools provided the minimum 25 h or more recommended by the NAS in 1985. Also surprising was the finding that 17 schools (18%) required only ≤10 h of nutrition instruction.
Patients routinely seek physicians' guidance about diet, and the relation of nutrition to the prevention and treatment of disease is well known. However, practicing physicians continually rate their nutrition knowledge and skills as inadequate. It also is no surprise that more than one-half of graduating medical students report that the time dedicated to nutrition instruction is inadequate.
Is there any wonder why doctors have no clue how to tackle the American Obesity Epidemic?