New Study Compares Chiropractic
and Medical Education

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   A Comparative Study of Chiropractic and Medical Education
Altern Ther Health Med. 1998 (Sep); 4 (5): 64–75

Alan Adams, DC; Peter Coggan, MD, MSEd; Ian D Coulter, PhD;
Meredith Gonyea, PhD; Michael Wilkes, MD, PhD

School of Dentistry,
University of California,
Los Angeles (UCLA), USA

This study suggests that chiropractic and medical curricula are "more similar than dissimilar" and that the educational programs "differ most in clinical practice." Coulter et al. studied the curriculum of six schools in California, Iowa, and Texas –– one chiropractic college and one medical school for each state. According to their methods, comparisons were drawn by examining course directories, syllabi, outlines and notes, as well as timetables, lectures, seminars, practicals, and rounds. Follow–up interviews and site visits were held at the colleges to validate the conclusions drawn after analyzing the materials.

The results suggest that, while medical students spend more time gaining clinical experience (1,405 hours for chiropractic vs. 5,227 hours for medicine, which includes a 3–year residency), chiropractic students spend more time in lectures and laboratories learning basic and clinical sciences (3,790 hours for chiropractic vs. 2,648 hours for medicine). Other comparisons showed that some subjects such as microbiology were equally represented in both curricula, while others, such as anatomy, physiology and pathology, were emphasized more in the chiropractic colleges.

BACKGROUND:   Chiropractic is the largest of the alternative/complementary health professions in North America. However, little attention has been given in the health sciences literature to the formal curriculum of chiropractic education or to its similarities to and differences from the curriculum of allopathic medical education. This lack of information precludes extensive referrals and interaction between the 2 professions, even when historical and political barriers can be overcome.

METHOD:   This is a descriptive, comparative study of the curriculum content of North American chiropractic and medical colleges, supplemented by in-depth data obtained through site visits with 6 institutions (3 chiropractic and 3 medical).

DISCUSSION:   Considerable commonality exists between chiropractic and medical programs. Regarding the basic sciences, these programs are more similar than dissimilar, both in the types of subjects offered and in the time allotted to each subject. The programs also share some common areas in the clinical sciences. Chiropractic and allopathic medicine differ the greatest in clinical practice, which in medical school far exceeds that in chiropractic school. The therapies that chiropractic and medical students learn are distinct from one another, and the settings in which students receive clinical training are different and isolated from one another. With these similarities and differences established, future studies should examine the quality of the 2 educational programs in detail.



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