Although nearly every medical specialty uses ultrasound, medical schools are inconsistently integrating ultrasound education into their curriculum. According to a 2019 study (by Nicholas et al) of United States Accredited Medical Schools (USAMS),1 although integration of ultrasound into curricula has increased since a prior study in 2014 (by Bahner et al),2 ultrasound instruction is still inconsistent.
In the fall of 2019, researchers contacted 200 allopathic and osteopathic USAMS for the Nicholas study.1 Of those schools, 168 (84%) responded and, of those, 122 (72.6%) indicated they have an ultrasound curriculum.
Of the medical schools that responded, 46 (23%) indicated they did not have ultrasound curriculum. 1
Although this study did not look into why they did or did not have the curriculum, some barriers clearly still remain to incorporating it, such as those mentioned in a 2016 study by Dinh et al3: lack of funding, lack of trained faculty, and lack of curricular space.
According to the Nicholas study, it seems as though some of the schools (42) work around the lack-of-funding barrier by having volunteers as faculty. Only 35 (20.8% of those who responded) compensate their faculty and, of those, 22 (13.1%) are compensated monetarily.1 And when schools can’t afford their own ultrasound machines, some have found other means, such as borrowing hospital ultrasound equipment. 3 Other means of helping to distribute the cost of starting up a program include gradually adding classes, using near-peer teaching, and self-directed asynchronous learning using online resources and simulators.3
As medical students who have learned about ultrasound have reported that it improves their understanding of anatomy and physical examination skills, and more specialties adopt this technology, students need to learn about it before they need to use it in clinical practice.1
Although more schools keep adding ultrasound to their curricula, it is not yet nationwide, and many who have succeeded had to struggle to make it happen. It is imperative that USAMS receive the funding and support they need to train medical students in the safe and effective use of ultrasound.
- Nicholas E, Ly AA, Prince AM, et al. The current status of ultrasound education in United States medical schools. J Ultrasound Med 2021; 40:2459–2465. https://doi.org/10.1002/jum.14333.
- Bahner D, Goldman E, Way D, Royall NA, Liu YT. The state of ultrasound education in U.S. medical schools: results of a national survey. Acad Med 2014; 89:1681–1686.
- Dinh VA, Fu JY, Lu S, Chiem A, Fox JC, Blaivas M. Integration of ultrasound in medical education at United States medical schools: A National Survey of Directors’ experiences. J Ultrasound Med 2016; 35:413–419. https://doi.org/10.7863/ultra.15.05073.
- Tarique U, Tang B, Singh M, Kulasegaram KM, Ailon J. Ultrasound curricula in undergraduate medical education: a scoping review. J Ultrasound Med 2018; 37:69–82. https://doi.org/10.1002/jum.14333.
Cynthia Owens, BA, is the Publications Coordinator for the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM).