Knowledge and attitudes of undergraduate medical students with regard to medical research at a South African university
Background. The early introduction of medical students to medical research-related courses is one of the innovative solutions devised by medical schools to address the dearth of physician-scientists.
Objective. To describe the knowledge and attitudes of medical students towards medical research at a medical school where research and measurement skills are taught from the first year of study.
Methods. A validated, pretested self-administered questionnaire was employed in a cross-sectional study to collect data from 228 third- and fourthyear medical students at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU), Pretoria, South Africa in April 2017. Knowledge of medical research was assessed with a 15-item questionnaire, and attitude towards research was measured with a 10-item scale. The data were analysed with Epi Info (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA) and findings are presented as means, percentages, proportions and tables. The χ2 test was used to assess association among the variables, with p<0.05 considered significant.
Results. The mean age of the 228 participants was 22.7 (standard deviation 2.55) years, with ages ranging between 19 and 36 years; 66.2% were female. Although only a few (22%) had prior research experience and less than half (36%) were confident to interpret medical research, the mean score on research knowledge was 73% and a positive attitude towards research was demonstrated. Statistical significance was found between having previous research experience and ability to interpret medical research (χ2=12.8; p=0.01), and between age and having previous research experience (χ2=35.7; p=0.01).
Conclusion. The findings revealed a good knowledge and positive attitude to medical research among the students. All these outcomes are the result of early exposure to medical research. More research-based courses are recommended for medical students, without overloading the medical curriculum.
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