Do students' attitudes toward women change during medical school?


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Abstract

BackgroundMedical school has historically reinforced traditional views of women. This cohort study follows implementation of a revitalized curriculum and examines students' attitudes toward women on entry into an Ontario medical school, and 3 years later.MethodsOf the 75 students entering first year at Queen's University medical school 70 completed the initial survey in September 1994 and 54 were resurveyed in May 1997. First-year students at 2 other Ontario medical schools were also surveyed in 1994, and these 166 respondents formed a comparison group. Changes in responses to statements about sex-role stereotypes, willingness to control decision-making of female patients, and conceptualization of women as "other" or "abnormal" because they are women were examined. Responses from the comparison group were used to indicate whether the Queen's group was representative.ResultsAttitudinal differences between the primary group and the comparison group were not significant. After 3 years of medical education students were somewhat less accepting of sex-role stereotypes and less controlling in the doctor-patient encounter. They continued, however, to equate adults with men and to see women as "not adult" or "other." Female students began and remained somewhat more open-minded in all areas studied.InterpretationA predicted trend toward conservatism was not seen as students became older, more aware and closer to completion of medical training, although they continued to equate adults with male and to see women as "other." Findings may validate new curricular approaches and increased attention to gender issues in the academic environment.

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