In our ongoing efforts to acquaint readers with how medicine, and especially the fundamental sciences of medicine, are taught around the world, we are pleased to feature the medical education system of Italy in this issue of the Basic Science Educator. We in the United States and Canada teaching in a 4 year undergraduate medical education system, should especially be attentive to the problems and solutions presented by our colleagues who teach in the much more common 6 year system and its variations. There is much we can learn. Student admissions procedures around the world do vary, and as noted for Italy, changes in policy can have significant effects on the resources available and outcome for students. We also may observe that many countries already devote a much smaller percentage of time to lectures (e.g. Italy = 33%) than does the average medical school in North America, rather having an increased emphasis on group and practical studies. This becomes of even greater interest when we realize average class sizes abroad are generally much greater than in North American medical schools. Despite class size differences, it is my personal bias that we in North America depend too heavily on multiple choice examinations and should look more closely at the European models for assessing student learning.
We are fortunate to have two distinguished authors contribute to this column. Both are faculty at the University di Torino (Turin) located in the northern part of Italy, and both maintain influential roles in the European system of medical education. A Geneticist and Biochemist by training, Professor Sergino Curtoni holds strong opinions regarding many issues in which the BSEF is involved. His personal influence is wide reaching, especially as the President of the Association of Medical Schools of Europe (AMSE). Professor Franco Cavallo is also deeply involved with many aspects of student training. Recently he was elected President of the Association of Schools of Public Health of the European Region (ASPHER). We welcome their contribution with its unreserved candor describing both successes and continuing problems.