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Normalizing Normal in Medical Education: A Call to Action

Published:August 07, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpag.2022.08.003
      It might be argued that the “normal” anatomical structures presented to learners in medical school are not, in fact, normal but prototypical (or even idealized). This could have important implications for physicians’ constructions of what is “normal”. Although the purpose of medical school is to prepare learners to engage in patient care and promote health, the primary approach to this enterprise has traditionally been to help learners understand the scientific nature of illness. Thus, the preclinical period of undergraduate medical training initially describes normal structure and function of human systems, but the focus quickly shifts to abnormalities, disease states, and therapeutic principles. An important consequence of this very brief initial exposure to what is considered “normal”, and the elaborate focus on the abnormal, is that the true variation of normal is severely underrepresented in medical school curricula.
      • Sañudo JR
      • Vàzquez R
      • Puerta J
      Meaning and clinical interest of the anatomic variations in the 21st century.
      For example, many of the commonly displayed “normal” presentations lack variations of size, shape, symmetry, and skin tone. As a result, medical education could inadvertently be pathologizing normal variation in human anatomy.
      • Alraddadi A
      Literature review of anatomical variations: clinical significance, identification approach, and teaching strategies.
      One clear example of this can be found in the specialties of reproductive health.
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