As I have said before, we are facing a crisis in declining curriculum on sexuality education in medical schools across the United States and Canada. There is a very clear need to better prepare medical students to be able to attend to the myriad of sexual health problems that their patients face. We have a public health imperative to address these problems.
Last fall we brought together 55 experts for a summit on medical school education in sexual health. The purpose of the summit was to examine the situation, discuss the challenges and opportunities, share lessons learned, and make recommendations for ensuring that physicians are properly trained to address the sexual health needs of their patients as they go into practice. In April the meeting report was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The expert consensus recommended:
• Sexual health education should be integrated longitudinally throughout four years of medical school.One approach to building a healthier society is to better train physicians. The training of medical students is an essential step to advance sexual health. It is time to ensure that in our society new doctors as well as practicing health professionals are prepared to address the sexual health needs of their patients from adolescence through seniority.
• Sexual health education should be "introduced early and often."
• Working together should be the norm and not the exception. There are other disciplines and experts who have an interest and a need in sexual health education.
• Developing evaluation mechanisms incorporating multiple methods of measurement to help medical schools understand how to best teach sexual health.
• Much like students, faculty members need content and curricula to build their skills and comfort in sexual health.
• Create a cross-organizational effort using multiple partnerships to advance the cause.
• Participants strongly endorsed an initiative to commission an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, which would also describe the need to address sexual health education for health care providers. This IOM report would be a collaborative project.
As Joycelyn Elders, MD, said in the closing of the summit, "A society grows great when old men and old women plant trees under whose shade they will never sit. At least we're planting trees." The passion displayed by the summit participants needs to continue. The group is committed to carrying out the recommendations.
The Program in Human Sexuality has been on the forefront of sexual health education for medical students since it began in 1970. We have been able to preserve one of the country's premier courses and curriculum. With the support of the Joycelyn Elders Chair in Sexual Health Education, we are committed to taking a leadership role in ensuring that not only our curriculum remains the best, but that we foster the highest quality sexual health education for other medical students in the United States and around the world.
Coleman, E., Elders, J., Satcher, D., Shindel, A., Parish, S., Kenagy, G., Bayer, C. R., Knudson, G., Kingsberg, S., Clayton, A., Lunn, M. R., Goldsmith, E., Tsai, P., & Light, A. (2013). Summit on Medical School Education in Sexual Health: Report of an Expert Consultation. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10(4), 924-938. doi:10.1111/jsm.12142
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