A pilot study on providing ophthalmic training to medical students while initiating a sustainable eye care effort for the underserved.
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We present a method to reintroduce ophthalmic training into the medical school curriculum.To evaluate knowledge and skills acquired when participating in a service project, the Community Vision Project, and to develop a quantitative method for testing skills with the direct ophthalmoscope in patients.Second-year medical students participated in the study. After 1 month, their knowledge was compared with that of peers and graduates (internal medicine residents). Also at 1 month, their direct ophthalmoscope skills were compared with those of upperclassmen who had completed all core clerkships. One year later, after the participants had completed their core clerkships, long-term ophthalmoscope skills retention was tested, and their performance was compared with that of their classmates.Training occurred in mobile eye clinics. Knowledge and skills assessments were performed in the hospital eye clinic among students and residents at The University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Patients were recruited from the hospital eye clinic. Participants attended a 3-hour training session held by an attending physician in the hospital eye clinic and took part in at least 1 mobile eye clinic.A knowledge assessment quiz was administered to participants (n = 12), their classmates (n = 18), and internal medicine residents (n = 33). Skills assessment with the direct ophthalmoscope was performed at 1 month and at 1 year in 5 participants and 5 nonparticipants. Tonometer skills were assessed by comparing participants' readings with those of an ophthalmologist's obtained in patients at the mobile eye clinics. RESULTS Participants' median knowledge assessment scores were 48% higher than those of their classmates and 37% higher than those of internal medicine residents (P < .001 for both). Short-term (1 month) direct ophthalmoscopy median scores were 60% (quartile 1 to quartile 3 range, 40%-80%) for participants and 40% (quartile 1 to quartile 3 range, 20%-60%) for nonparticipating upperclassmen (P = .24). Long-term direct ophthalmoscopy median scores were 100% (quartile 1 to quartile 3 range, 75%-100%) for participants and 0% (quartile 1 to quartile 3 range, 0%-25%) for nonparticipating classmates (P = .11). Participants' tonometer readings were similar to those of the ophthalmologist's; their median reading was 2 mm Hg (quartile 1 to quartile 3 range, 0-4 mm Hg) higher than that of the ophthalmologist's (P = .05, sign test).Service-based learning offered an efficient model for incorporating ophthalmic training into the medical school curriculum. A viable tool for quantitatively testing ophthalmoscope skills is presented.