Teaching Medical Students About Obesity: A Pilot Program to Address an Unmet Need Through Longitudinal Relationships With Bariatric Surgery Patients

Roberts, David H.; Kane, Erin M.; Jones, Daniel B.; Almeida, Jacqueline M.; Bell, Sigall K.; Weinstein, Amy R.; Schwartzstein, Richard M.
June 2011
Surgical Innovation;Jun2011, Vol. 18 Issue 2, p176
Academic Journal
Background. Despite obesity’s relevance and impact, curricula addressing obesity are underrepresented in clinical medical education. A novel pilot program to begin teaching medical students about care of the obese patient was developed and student attitudes toward obesity and bariatric surgery were assessed. Methods.The authors paired third-year students with obese patients undergoing bariatric surgery. Students established a longitudinal patient relationship, received faculty mentorship, and kept a reflections journal. An attitude assessment survey was administered before and after third year. Reflections were analyzed for common themes. Results. Baseline student responses differed from those previously reported for practicing physicians on many survey statements, including more strongly agreeing with the relationship between obesity and serious medical conditions (P < .001), the need to educate patients about obesity risks (P < .001), and willingness to recommend bariatric surgery evaluation (P = .004). These differences were maintained after clinical clerkships. Reflection themes included recognition of obesity stereotypes, improved estimation of body mass index, and awareness of physicians’ attitudes about obesity. Conclusion. Development and assessment of a novel pilot program to teach third-year medical students about obesity and bariatric surgery suggests a potential impact on student attitudes and understanding of obesity and obesity surgery. Students today may have different attitudes toward obesity than those reflected in prior data for physicians in practice, and programs such as this may help maintain positive attitudes.


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