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Can J Public Health. 2009 May-Jun;100(3):194-8.

Assessing Canadian medical students' familiarity with and interest in pursuing a career in community medicine.

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  • 1Community Medicine Residency Program, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, 155 College Street, Toronto, ON M5T 3M7.



Following the SARS outbreak, large gaps in the public health workforce have been identified. This study sought to understand the perceptions and attitudes of Canadian medical students with regard to public health to determine how this impacted their choice towards a career in Community Medicine (CM).


Five focus groups of 11-12 medical students from all years were recruited at McMaster University, Université de Sherbrooke, University of Toronto, University of Manitoba and the University of British Columbia. A professional facilitator was hired to conduct the focus groups using a unique computer-based facilitation system. Questions in both the focus group and an accompanying survey sought to determine medical students' understanding and exposure to public health and how this impacted their attitude and choice towards a career in community medicine. The transcripts were independently reviewed and analyzed by each of the authors to identify themes.


Four major themes related to choosing Community Medicine as a career were identified: 1) poor understanding of the role of Community Medicine specialists in public health practice, 2) perceived lack of clinical work and relevance of public health to clinical practice, 3) perceived lack of exclusivity of Community Medicine specialty, 4) incentives and disincentives to pursuing Community Medicine.


Better education of students on the role of CM specialists through increasing exposure to role models and demystifying inaccurate perceptions of CM through integration of public health with clinical medicine may potentially increase medical student entry into Community Medicine.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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