Nutrition coverage on medical licensing examinations in the United States

Academic Article


  • The 1985 National Academy of Sciences report Nutrition Education in US Medical Schools recommended that the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), who develops the US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), cover basic nutrition knowledge. According to the NBME, the USMLE includes nutrition on their Step 1 and 2 exams; however, this coverage has been questioned. To document whether the NBME adequately addresses nutrition, the 1986 Part I and Part II and the 1993 Step 1 and Step 2 exams, which replaced the Part I and II exams, were reviewed by five nutrition professionals. This review identified the nutrition-related areas of the two-part exams and how the extent of nutrition coverage changed from 1986 to 1993. Nutrition items were coded on four dimensions: 1) specific nutrition-related topic area, 2) normal or abnormal scenario, 3) related organ system, and 4) importance in clinical medicine. The percentage of nutrition-related items, as identified by the nutrition professionals, increased from 9% on the 1986 Part I exam to 11% on the 1993 Step I exam and from 6% on the 1986 Part II exam to 12% on the 1993 Step 2 exam. The percentage of nutrition items related to vitamin deficiencies increased from 1986 to 1993 on both halves of the exam. Nutrition coverage on the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 seems adequate in amount, however, the content and appropriateness of the items were not evaluated. The observed increased focus on vitamin deficiencies should be further considered.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Hark LA; Iwamoto C; Melnick DE; Young EA; Morgan SL; Kushner R; Hensrud DD
  • Start Page

  • 568
  • End Page

  • 571
  • Volume

  • 65
  • Issue

  • 2