Student Research in the Medical Curriculum: Experiences From Norway

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It is a privilege to conduct research while studying medicine. Because doing so is integral in our curriculum, we have been lucky! This is an exciting and important task. We have contributed to the medical field, gained specialist knowledge, and pursued some of our strongest interests. We have been students and colleagues with university faculty at the same time. In an ideal world, more students should get this opportunity.
Worldwide, there are, of course, several student research programs. In the United Kingdom, intercalated degrees are common. In Germany, research and writing a thesis are required to be referred to as “doctor.” And in the United States, students can enroll in joint MD–PhD programs.1 How is the Norwegian approach different? Here in Norway, 10% of all medical students are admitted to the Medical Student Research Program. In this program we are allowed to fulfill all formal requirements for the PhD except handing in the thesis and completing the doctoral defense. We learn how to disseminate our research through posters and oral presentations, as well as publication in peer-reviewed journals. We also receive some funding along the way. The program has received good feedback from both students and supervisors and has led to an increase in recruitment of physicians to medical research in Norway.2
Although medicine is developing fast, the ideal of scientific rigor remains the same. But to be rigorous, we need “translators”—that is, individuals who can bridge gaps between scientists, clinicians, and patients. The education of these translators should begin early. Student research is one way of educating them. We believe more medical students should have the opportunities we have had. Each country and university will have to find its own path, but much can be learned from the Norwegian program.
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