South African Family Practice

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Undergraduate medical students’ interest in specialising in Family Medicine at the University of the Free State, 2014

DT Hagemeister, A Pal, N Naidoo, U Kristen, N Mokgosana, G Joubert


Background: There is a large demand for Family Medicine specialists, yet not enough medical students specialise in this field. This study investigated the interest of undergraduate medical students at the University of the Free State in pursuing a career in Family Medicine, factors associated with this interest, and their opinion of Family Medicine as a specialty.
Methods: In this prospective cross-sectional study, anonymous, self-reporting questionnaires, available in English and Afrikaans, were distributed to first- to fifth-year undergraduates. Data were collected on demographic variables and interest in Family Medicine and other disciplines. The students had to rate the likelihood of them selecting 15 different specialties as a future career according to a five-point Likert scale. Opinions concerning Family Medicine were tested with a yes/no response as to the agreement to five statements.
Results: Fifth-year students were excluded due to poor response rate (13.6%). The response rate for the first- to fourth-year groups was 86.4%. Interest in Family Medicine decreased from first to third year (22.4, 21.2 and 14.0%, respectively), but increased again in the fourth year (23.3%). Females and speakers of African languages showed the most interest in this field. Medical students, especially first years, generally had poor knowledge regarding Family Medicine.
Conclusion: Family Medicine is not a preferred specialty in any of the four year groups, and students had insufficient knowledge of the field. Family Medicine should be introduced earlier into the medical curriculum.

Keywords: Family Medicine, interest, knowledge, specialisation, undergraduate medical education

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