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Teaching medical students about medically unexplained illnesses: A preliminary study - Source: Medical Teacher, May 2008

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By Fred Friedberg, PhD et al. • www.ProHealth.com • July 10, 2008


Background: This study examined how an interactive seminar focusing on two medically unexplained illnesses - chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia - influenced medical student attitudes toward CFS, a more strongly stigmatized illness.

Methods: Forty-five fourth year medical students attended a 90-minute interactive seminar on the management of medically unexplained illnesses that was exemplified with CFS and fibromyalgia. A modified version of the CFS attitudes test was administered immediately before and after the seminar.

Results:
Pre-seminar assessment revealed neutral to slightly favorable toward CFS.

At the end of the seminar, significantly more favorable attitudes were found toward CFS in general (t (42) = 2.77; P < 0.01) and for specific items that focused on:

  1. Supporting more CFS research funding (t (42) = 4.32; P < 0.001;
  2. Employers providing flexible hours for people with CFS (t (42) = 3.52, P < 0.01); and
  3. Viewing CFS as not primarily a psychological disorder (t (42) = 2.87, P < 0.01).

Thus, a relatively brief exposure to factual information on specific medically unexplained illnesses was associated with more favorable attitudes toward CFS in fourth year medical students.

Conclusion: This type of instruction may lead to potentially more receptive professional attitudes toward providing care to these underserved patients.

Source: Medical Teacher, May 2008. 20:1-4. [E-pub ahead of print] PMID: 18608944, by Friedberg F, Sohl SJ, Halperin PJ. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Stony Brook University, New York, USA. [E-mail: Fred.Friedberg@stonybrook.edu]





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