Medical Student Perspective of Undergraduate (Honours) Research Training
At the University of Adelaide, students in the 6-year undergraduate Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) program interested in pursuing research can complete either a 1-year full-time intercalated or 2-year part-time concurrent BMedSc Honours/MBBS program. These research degrees are an important mechanism to provide early research exposure and supervisor mentorship to undergraduate medical students. This study aimed to explore factors motivating medical students to undertake an Honours research degree, how the Honours degree influences future research intentions and the perceived differences between full-time and part-time study modes.
An anonymous questionnaire was administered to all 38 graduates of the Honours program from 2002-2011. Ten of 19 individuals from the 2009-2011 graduating cohorts responded; there were no responses from earlier cohorts. All 10 respondents stated that Honours was worthwhile and nine had undertaken additional research since Honours. Factors favourably affecting enthusiasm for research were supervisor support and the experience compared to expectations. Enthusiasm for research was significantly higher after Honours than before this experience (Wilcoxon signed-ranks test, p=0.007). Students who undertook Honours full-time tended to consider the full-time option ideal, whereas the part- time students tended to consider the part-time option ideal. This was strongly supported by the qualitative comments.
This study found that Honours research degrees are a beneficial experience for undergraduate medical students and increase interest in future research careers. While the study was limited by the small population of students completing the Honours program, uptake at the University of Adelaide is similar to Commonwealth universities. The low response rate is also considered reasonable for a professional population, however future research should address both this and why few medical students undertake research study.