New core curriculum demonstrates dermatology's commitment to education

From the President

Daniel Siegel

Dr. Siegel served as the Academy's president from March 20, 2012 to March 5, 2013.

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A few months ago, with little fanfare, the Academy launched a new resource on its website that has the potential to dramatically improve the way dermatologists educate medical students and interact with their colleagues in primary care in the future. The AAD Medical Student Core Curriculum is an important tool, one whose very name undersells its potential utility.

This curriculum, which includes 34 modules on a variety of dermatologic topics, was created by a work group of experienced dermatology educators based on the needs of today’s learners. There are two introductory guides on the site: a learner’s guide for students and an educator’s guide for teachers and educators.

These guides provide direction about how one can best utilize this collection of learning modules, including the recommended order in which to review them. Each module has been peer-reviewed and is based on the best available evidence. Clinical vignettes and questions within each module provide a practical framework for learning. After completion of each module, students can test their knowledge with quiz questions. A series of learning objectives offer users a concrete way to see what they will get from the curriculum and to measure their progress.

Why is this so exciting? It has implications in a number of important arenas. For practicing dermatologists, it offers a great tool for educating new clinical staff, including physician assistants or nurse practitioners, about the basics of dermatology. Similarly, it can help anyone who has medical students rotate through their office provide the didactic learning those students need while saving valuable face-to-face time for students to see patients and gain clinical experience. If you don’t currently have students in your practice, maybe this will make you reconsider — hosting students is a great way to volunteer that enhances our specialty’s reputation and improves the future of medicine.[pagebreak]

The core curriculum will also be great for junior faculty in dermatology departments across the country. They can use this information to quickly generate the lectures they’re required to give to medical students. The time they save can be spent on patient care or research.

Meanwhile, the lectures they deliver based on the core curriculum — which has been validated through testing to help students meet a set of core learning objectives, all of which are spelled out along with the curriculum — will lead, over time, to a standard body of dermatologic knowledge. Dermatologists will know their colleagues across medicine have been exposed to this body of knowledge during training. Imagine how that will help us interact with our patients’ other doctors!

And because of that, this is a white-hat issue for dermatologists. The development of the core curriculum demonstrates, and allows us to tell the public, that dermatologists care enough about the skin health of Americans to create teaching materials that provide every doctor in America with the necessary knowledge to offer optimal skin care (and to know when they should refer their patients to us for care).

Thanks to all of the dedicated dermatologists who volunteered to make this a reality, including Timothy G. Berger, MD, chair of the AAD medical student core curriculum work group; Patrick McCleskey, MD, vice chair; and Sarah D. Cipriano, MD, MPH, director of curriculum development; and the dozens of dermatologists and Academy staff members who created and reviewed the material for curriculum. Take a look at their work at