Sexuality Education in North American Medical Schools: Current Status and Future Directions (CME)


  • Alan W. Shindel MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Urology, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA, USA
    • Alan Shindel, MD, Department of Urology, University of California, Davis, 4860 Y Street, Suite 3500, Sacramento, CA 95816, USA. Tel: (916) 734-5154; Fax: (916) 734-8094; Email:

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  • Sharon J. Parish MD

    1. Department of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA
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Introduction.  Both the general public and individual patients expect healthcare providers to be knowledgeable and approachable regarding sexual health. Despite this expectation there are no universal standards or expectations regarding the sexuality education of medical students.

Aims.  To review the current state of the art in sexuality education for North American medical students and to articulate future directions for improvement.

Methods.  Evaluation of: (i) peer-reviewed literature on sexuality education (focusing on undergraduate medical students); and (ii) recommendations for sexuality education from national and international public health organizations.

Main Outcome Measures.  Current status and future innovations for sexual health education in North American medical schools.

Results.  Although the importance of sexuality to patients is recognized, there is wide variation in both the quantity and quality of education on this topic in North American medical schools. Many sexual health education programs in medical schools are focused on prevention of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. Educational material on sexual function and dysfunction, female sexuality, abortion, and sexual minority groups is generally scant or absent. A number of novel interventions, many student initiated, have been implemented at various medical schools to improve the student's training in sexual health matters.

Conclusions.  There is a tremendous opportunity to mold the next generation of healthcare providers to view healthy sexuality as a relevant patient concern. A comprehensive and uniform curriculum on human sexuality at the medical school level may substantially enhance the capacity of tomorrow's physicians to provide optimal care for their patients irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, and individual sexual mores/beliefs. Shindel AW and Parish SJ. Sexuality education in North American medical schools: Current status and future directions. J Sex Med 2013;10:3–18.