Undergraduate curricula: An opportunity for progress (requires your help!)

By Dr David White

Sport and Exercise Medicine: The UK trainee perspective (A twice-monthly Guest Blog)

Participate in a new and interesting opportunity to help embed physical activity for health within medical undergraduate training. Drive this initiative forward by taking a few simple steps — outlined at the end of this blog.

At the recent Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (FSEM) Annual Meeting in Edinburgh there were confirmations of progress across the UK in the promotion of physical activity for health. However, one recurring issue throughout the FSEM programme was the pressing need for an update of undergraduate education. Several studies convincingly suggest that current inclusion in undergraduate curricula is inadequate. [1,2]

Our current challenge is how to promptly improve undergraduate medical curricula, to place appropriate emphasis on physical activity for health. One or two medical schools have made progress, owing largely to enthusiastic individuals lobbying for amendments to that curriculum (e.g. Drs. Rhodri Martin, Liam West and John Brooks at Cardiff and King’s College, respectively). Vigour and persistence over prolonged periods were required in each of these cases. We can ill-afford to wait for this approach across each of the UK’s 32 medical schools.

The ultimate responsibility for undergraduate curricula across all medical schools lies with the General Medical Council (GMC). Their document ‘Tomorrow’s Doctors’, published in 2009, regulates what medical schools are expected to teach their students [3]. There is not a single mention of physical activity for health in this key document.
Opportunely, the GMC recently published another paper entitled:

            “The state of medical education and practice in the UK: 2012”. [4]

GMC’s aim in compiling this document is:

“To promote discussion and debate on issues and trends that require attention or further analysis, to improve standards of medical practice.”

Accordingly, the GMC have invited responses to this paper. These can easily be submitted online, and via Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Herein lies the opportunity to make the GMC sit up and take note of the current shortcomings in undergraduate education.

Here is a link to the report, and a brief feedback form.

Please complete the 4 simple questions, and forward the link to others who may support this cause.

The GMC have committed to log all comments detailing ‘Tomorrow’s Doctors’ for when the document is next revised.

In order to truly promote Good Medical Practice, the GMC must now set appropriate, up-to-date standards for our future medical workforce. Medical training needs to be altered to reflect changing patterns of healthcare and support a disinvestment in costly medications. Inclusion of physical activity across each of the relevant specialties is imperative. I believe this will inevitably happen. Seizing this current opportunity to offer feedback, however, could save many years lobbying individual medical schools and promote the more widespread application of curricula improvement.


[1] Oluwajana F, Rufford C,Morrissey D. Exercise, sports and musculoskeletal medicine in UK medical school curricula: a survey. Br J Sports Med 2011;45:2 e1 doi:10.1136/bjsm.2010.081554.26

[2] Weiler R, Chew S, Coombs N, et al Physical activity education in the undergraduate curricula of all UK medical schools. Are tomorrow’s doctors equipped to follow clinical guidelines? Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091380

[3] General Medical Council. Tomorrow’s Doctors. 2009. Available online.

[4] General Medical Council. The state of medical education and practice in the UK: 2012. 2012. Available online.


Dr David White is a Sport and Exercise Medicine Registrar based in Scotland, currently working with the Scottish Government and within the CMO Directorate. He is also a Medical Officer with the Irish Football Association and an IPC Classifier.

Email correspondance: david.white@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Dr James Thing co-ordinates “Sport and Exercise Medicine: The UK trainee perspective” monthly blog series.

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