Australian medical students’ perceptions towards the introduction of MD courses in medical education
Introduction: There is an increasing trend away from undergraduate-entry to postgraduate-entry Doctor of Medicine (MD) courses of medical education. To date, data is lacking on the perceptions of the consumers of medical education, medical students, towards this trend. The following research aims to fill that gap to inform course developers, administrators and policy-makers. The objective was to explore the perceptions of Australian medical students towards the introduction of postgraduate- entry Doctor of Medicine (MD) programs.
Methods: Between September and October 2012, medical students across all medical courses and year levels in Australia were invited to participate in a survey to determine their perceptions of MD programs. Responses were received from 1,291 students (35.5%). The main outcome measures were mean scores on six items regarding the impact on professional practice of respondents and two items regarding the impact on future medical school places across three categories of medical course types.
Results: MD students were more positive about the impact of the MD program than both MBBS students at universities that also offer the MD program and MBBS students at universities without the MD program (p<0.001) for all six professional practice items. MBBS students at universities without the MD program were more positive than MBBS students at universities with the MD program for two professional practice items (interactions with other medical professionals, p=0.007; qualifications recognised overseas, p<0.001). MBBS students at universities without the MD program were more concerned than MD students regarding MD programs allowing domestic full-fee medical places (p<0.01). Average ratings for the possibility of MD programs allowing unregulated medical student numbers were similar across groups (p=0.178).
Conclusions: While the introduction of MD courses to Australia has its benefits, potential disadvantages include decreased quality of medical education, decreased availability of post-graduate training, decreased diversity of the medical workforce, increased competition for educational resources and community misperceptions regarding MD graduates. These concerns may be addressed by governmental regulation, provision of additional resources and further research on community perceptions regarding MD graduates.
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