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Intellectual stimulation in family medicine: An international qualitative study of student perceptions

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kiran Sahota, Dr Eugene TangORCiD, Professor Hugh Alberti



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020, The Authors.Background: Globally, medical schools struggle to ensure there is a sufficient number of graduates choosing family medicine as a career to meet societal needs. While factors impacting career choice are complex, one possible disincentive to choosing family medicine is the perception that it is less intellectually stimulating than specialty care. Aim: The study sought to elicit student views on intellectual stimulation in family medicine, and their understanding of academic family medicine. Design & setting: This is a qualitative focus group study of volunteer students from the University of Calgary, Canada, and Newcastle University, UK. Method: Six focus groups were conducted with 51 participants. The data were analysed thematically. Results: Students associated intellectual stimulation in family medicine with clinical practice. Intellectual stimulation was related to problem solving and the challenge of having to know a little about everything, along with clinical uncertainty and the need to be vigilant to avoid missing diagnoses. Student awareness of academic family medicine was limited, and students identified it with teaching rather than research. Conclusion: Promoting intellectual stimulation in family medicine requires educators to highlight the breadth and variety of knowledge required in family medicine, as well as the need to manage clinical uncertainty and to be vigilant to avoid missing diagnoses. Exposure to academic family medicine could enhance students' understanding and appreciation of the role of research in family medicine.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sahota K, Goeres P, Kelly M, Tang E, Hofmeister M, Alberti H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BJGP Open

Year: 2020

Volume: 4

Issue: 3

Print publication date: 01/08/2020

Online publication date: 24/06/2020

Acceptance date: 20/01/2020

Date deposited: 13/01/2021

ISSN (print): 1849-5435

ISSN (electronic): 2398-3795

Publisher: Royal College of General Practitioners


DOI: 10.3399/bjgpopen20X101045


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This study was funded by Newcastle University, United Kingdom.