Posted 11.28.2016 | by AMRA

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While anecdotal evidence suggests that an increasing number of medical students and physicians are gaining exposure to mindfulness-related concepts and practices, there have been no formal surveys of the extent and scope of mindfulness-related activities in U.S. medical schools. If mindfulness is to be more than a passing fad, MBI-related concepts and practices need to be integrated into medical education, and institutions must be created that will sustain medical MBI education, practice, and research into the future. To what extent is that happening across the nation?

Barnes et al. [Mindfulness] performed a systematic search of all of the 140 accredited U.S. medical school websites for information concerning MBI education, practice programs, and research activity. Whenever the schools were found to have affiliated academic mindfulness centers, the directors of those centers were surveyed about program content and sustainability.

The researchers evaluated over 5,000 web links that were harvested in an Internet search of links that included a medical school name and a reference to mindfulness. Mindfulness activities in those links were categorized as clinical activity, medical school curricular activity, student/staff wellness activity, or research activity. The search also identified potential academic mindfulness centers associated with the medical schools (AMCAMS).

To be identified as an AMCAMS, centers had to be a distinct administrative entity, be affiliated with the medical school, and offer at least one MBI course. Center directors were asked to complete an online survey requesting detailed information about their programs, participants, staffing, revenue sources, and whether the center had an exclusive mindfulness focus or a broader integrative medicine focus.

Results showed that in 2014, 79% (111/140) of U.S. medical schools provided online information about mindfulness-related activities. In terms of types of mindfulness activities, 62% of the schools offered staff/student wellness-related activities, 49% offered research-related activities, 34% offered MBIs to patients, and 31% offered mindfulness-related material in their medical education curriculum.

Nearly a quarter (33/140; 24%) of the medical schools had an AMCAMS. Most of the AMCAMS directors (87%) responded to the survey. Of those AMCAMS, 42% were focused primarily on MBIs, while 55% had a broader integrative medicine focus that included mindfulness. The most commonly offered MBIs were MBSR (67%), MBCT (39%) and Mindful Movement (39%). AMCAMS supported themselves through a combination of MBI class fees (64%), private donations (52%), fee-for-service billing (48%), research funding (42%), and insurance billing (23%). The majority (61%) reported formal involvement of medical and psychology students, trainees, interns, and residents in their programming. The average AMCAMS had 12 full-time employees and offered an average of 15 MBI courses a year to 447 participants.

These findings are the first to document the breadth of integration of MBI-related concepts and practices into U.S. medical education on a national level. Mindfulness programs have established organizational and administrative footholds in nearly a quarter of U.S. medical schools.

These data set the stage for future investigations into the status of mindfulness in American medical education. While the study surveyed the potential availability of mindfulness-related activities in U.S. medical schools, it does not evaluate the degree to which medical trainees actually participate in, receive training in, or conduct research in these activities.

Reference:

Barnes, N., Hattan, P., Black, D. S., & Schuman-Olivier, Z. (2016). An examination of mindfulness-based programs in US medical schools. Mindfulness.

[Link to abstract]