To the Editor:
Most U.S. medical schools require faculty to disclose their industry financial relationships to the university and to the public. However, schools do not routinely require faculty to make such disclosures to medical students. We believe that this should change and that medical schools should create policies that encourage faculty to disclose their relevant financial ties to industry during lectures to students. Such policies should also encourage disclosures of industry ties during small-group seminars, clinical experiences, and mentored scholarly activities involving students, if the ties are relevant to the topics being discussed.
Our own experience with such a policy1 makes clear that students might initially fear that such an initiative could antagonize faculty and undermine faculty–student relationships. We addressed that problem by explaining to students that faculty members already disclose industry ties to peers at scientific and clinical meetings. After that, all students endorsed the proposed initiative, which the faculty senate later approved unanimously.
Our proposal is part of the growing support for conflict-of-interest disclosures to medical students.2 For example, at the June 2011 meeting of the American Medical Association, one of us (A.R.) proposed, and the House of Delegates adopted, a resolution asking the Liaison Committee on Medical Education to consider new standards that would encourage all U.S. medical school faculty to disclose their financial ties with industry when they teach medical students.3
Organized medicine, government, and the public—and now medical students—believe that faculty collaborations with industry, including financial ties, should be disclosed to medical students. We think that this is no less important than having faculty disclose their industry ties to peers. Furthermore, disclosure of industry ties in the lecture hall represents an opportunity to model professional behaviors to medical students early in their training.
Medical student, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steven R. Lowenstein, MD, MPH
Professor of emergency medicine and associate dean of faculty affairs, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado.
1. University of Colorado School of Medicine. . Encouraging Medical Student Professionalism and Patient Safety: Affirming Institutional Financial Disclosure Policies During Medical Education. http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/medicalschool/facultyAffairs/Documents/UCSOMFacultyFinancialDisclosuresResolution.pdf
Accessed April 6, 2012
2. Austad KE, Kesselheim AS. Conflict of interest disclosure in early education of medical students. JAMA. 2011;306:991–992