Although only some medical students will choose cancer as their specialty, it is essential that all students have a basic understanding of cancer and its treatment. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of an introductory clinical oncology course on first-year international medical students. Evaluation of the course involved a quantitative survey designed for this study that was given pre- and post-course completion. Participants included 29 first-year international medical students. Students reported that the course affected them emotionally more than they anticipated it would prior to beginning the course. By the end of the course, students felt more comfortable focusing on how to live with cancer, felt less afraid of dealing with death, and were better able to cope with uncomfortable emotional situations. The course had no significant effect on students’ interest in specializing in oncology in the future. Our study provides evidence that an introductory oncology course can increase student comfort with issues related to living with cancer, with confronting and dealing with death and dying, and with coping with uncomfortable emotional situations as related to cancer care. In anticipation of growing shortages in oncology specialists in the coming years, the ability of an early course in oncology to attract more students to the field is of interest. Future research should examine ethnic and cultural differences in uptake of the clinical oncology courses across continents and should use direct observation in addition to self-report in evaluating outcomes.
- Cancer treatment
- Clinical education
- Curriculum development/evaluation
- Interdisciplinary medical education
- Psycho-social issues