A Comparative Study of Chiropractic and Medical Education

Published in: Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, v. 4, no. 5, Sep. 1998, p. 64-75

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1998

by Ian D. Coulter, Alan H. Adams, Peter Coggan, Michael Wilkes, Meredith Gonyea

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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 two professions, even when historical and political barriers can be overcome. 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). 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 two educational programs in detail.

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