Purpose. The personal health care of medical students is an important but neglected issue in medical education. Preliminary work suggests that medical student-patients experience special barriers to health care services and report problematic care-seeking practices that merit further inquiry. Method. A self-report questionnaire was piloted, revised, and distributed to students at nine medical schools in 1996-97. The survey included questions regarding access to health services, care-seeking practices, and demographic information. Results. A total of 1,027 students participated (52% response rate). Ninety percent reported needing care for various health concerns. Fifty-seven percent did not seek care at times, in part due to training demands, and 48% had encountered difficulties in obtaining care. A majority had received treatment at their training institutions, and students commonly pursued informal or 'curbside' care from medical colleagues. Almost all participants (96%) were insured. Differences in responses were associated with level of training, gender, and medical school. Conclusion. Medical schools shoulder the responsibility not only of educating but also of providing health services for their students. Students encounter barriers to care and engage in problematic care-seeking practices. Greater attention to issues surrounding medical student health may benefit students and their future patients.
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