Engaging medical students in occupational and environmental medicine—a new approach

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Background For a number of reasons, engaging the interest of medical students in the discipline of occupational and environmental medicine (OEM) can be challenging.Aims To renew a curriculum in OEM within a graduate medical programme with an emphasis on student involvement to maximize their interest in the topic.Methods A second year student cohort of a 4 year graduate medical programme was surveyed as to their preferences for the content of a short course of OEM embedded in their medical course. The course was extensively rewritten as a result of the student survey, with a number of topics deleted from the old course and new topics added. In order to validate the content of the new course, local occupational physicians (OPs) were also surveyed as to their opinion of an appropriate curriculum in OEM for medical students. The new course was taught to the subsequent cohort of second year medical students. The students’ ratings of the course pre- and post-revision were compared.Results The student satisfaction rates of the course significantly improved as a result of the changes. The content of the student-led curriculum was strikingly similar to the course proposed by the local OP with a few key exceptions.Conclusions Student involvement in curriculum design in OEM is entirely feasible. It can result in a curriculum similar to that designed by expert opinion but has the advantage of strongly engaging student interest.

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