Medical student perceptions of a behavioural and social science curriculum

Caroline D. Peterson, Rebecca E. Rdesinski, Frances Emily Biagioli, Kathryn G. Chappelle, Diane L. Elliot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: In 2006, Oregon Health & Science University began implementing changes to better integrate mental health and social science into the curriculum by addressing the Institute of Medicine's (IOM's) 2004 recommendation for the inclusion of six behavioural and social science (BSS) domains: health policy and economics, patient behaviour, physician-patient interaction, mind-body interactions, physician role and behaviour, and social and cultural issues. Methods: We conducted three focus groups with a purposive sample of 23 fourth-year medical students who were exposed to 4 years of the new curriculum. Students were asked to reflect upon the adequacy of their BSS training specifically as it related to the six IOM domains. The 90-minute focus groups were recorded, transcribed and analysed. Results: Students felt the MS1 and MS2 years of the curriculum presented a strong didactic orientation to behavioural and social science precepts. However, they reported that these principles were not well integrated into clinical care during the second two years. Students identified three opportunities to further the inclusion of BSS in their clinical training: presentation of BSS concepts prior to relevant clinical exposure, consistent BSS skills mentoring in the clinical setting, and improving cultural congruence between aspects of BSS and biomedicine. Conclusions: Students exposed to the revised BSS curriculum tend to value its principles; however, modelling and practical training in the application of these principles during the second two years of medical school are needed to reinforce this learning and demonstrate methods of integrating BSS principles into practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-226
Number of pages12
JournalMental Health in Family Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Behavioural sciences and social sciences
  • Education
  • Focus groups
  • Medical
  • Undergraduate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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