BACKGROUND: The specific surgical knowledge and skills students learn during surgical rotations are reconsidered in light of recent changes in medical school curricula. The purpose of this study was to determine the priorities of a surgical curriculum based on input from three groups: surgical faculty (SF), primary care faculty (PCF), and community-based, practicing primary care physicians (PCP). METHODS: A questionnaire was developed in which SF (n = 54), PCF (n = 85), and PCP (n = 876) were asked to rank the importance of 145 areas of knowledge and 48 areas of clinical skills on a 5-point Likert-type scale. Responses were rank ordered by the mean of importance ratings for each group. Differences among groups were evaluated using ANOVA. RESULTS: Response rates were best for faculty (100% SF, 88% PCF, 61% PCP). All three groups considered general surgery related topics and general skills very important. Primary care physicians and PCF consistently ranked otolaryngology, ophthalmology, and orthopedic topics and skills higher than did SF. Surgery faculty ranked invasive surgical procedures higher than did PCP while PCP ranked orthopedic procedural skills more highly. CONCLUSIONS: There is significant overlap among physicians about what medical students should learn during a surgical rotation. Differences between groups centered on surgical subspecialty knowledge and clinical skills. These results provide a broad perspective about required subjects for a core surgical clerkship curriculum, which should include surgical subspecialty training.
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