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Does participation in international health electives during pre-clinical years influence a student’s interest in primary care?

Joseph M Kennedy, Megan M Chock, Spampinato M Christine, Jennifer L. Pecina.

This pilot study aimed to characterize the effect of participation in an international health elective (IHE) during the preclinical years on a student’s interest in pursuing a career in family medicine and primary care specialties. 100 first- and second-year medical students were surveyed on their participation in IHEs and family medicine interest group (FMIG) and family medicine-related activities, meetings, and conferences. A total of 44 students responded to the survey. 35 students (79.5%) had participated in an IHE outside of the United States. The percentage of IHE participants who had attended at least one FMIG event was significantly higher than the percentage of IHE non-participants (80% versus 33.3%; p=0.006) but there was no significant difference in any other variable studied. Despite limitations, our pilot study suggests that first and second year medical school students participating in IHEs are more likely than those not participating to attend at least one FMIG event; however there is no difference in students reported interest in primary care or family medicine as a specialty choice. As previous reviews have noted a paucity of neutral or negative studies in the literature, we hope that our observations of a possible lack of effect of participation in IHEs in the preclinical years on students’ interest in primary care adds to the existing literature.

Key words: Career choice; family practice / education; primary health care; world health

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