The Relevance of Basic Sciences in an Undergraduate Medical Programme: An Irish Medical School Perspective

Lynch, C and Last, J. (2013) The Relevance of Basic Sciences in an Undergraduate Medical Programme: An Irish Medical School Perspective. In: 6th scientific meeting of the Irish Network of Medical Educators (INMED), 21st February to Friday 22nd February 2013, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.


AIM UCD operates a Six-Year undergraduate medical programme which includes a basic science curriculum in Year one. Entrants also require any one school laboratory science. The purpose of this study was to consider how specific school or university basic sciences contribute to enhanced performance on the medical programme and to explore whether six year medical programmes are justifiable. METHOD Quantitative data was collated for all Leaving Certificate (LC) students entering the programme from 2006 to 2009 (n=413). Correlations between entry criteria (LC subjects and points, HPAT scores) and outcome measures (Year and Degree GPA) were analysed and linear regression used to examine the relationship between models of predictor variables and outcome measures. International medical education practice in the UK and Australia was considered alongside student opinion. RESULTS Five year programmes are prevalent in the UK with A-Level Chemistry a common entry requirement. Ireland and Australia, having similar broad-based second level exit examinations, still offer a number of six year programmes. An ASTI report in 2012 showed a decline in the availability of Chemistry (-11%) and Physics (-21%) for the LC programme. Student consultation indicated a preference to a medical programme, which offers access to a broader educational experience. There was no statistically significant difference in the medical programme performance of students with/without prior knowledge in a school science. The presence of Honours Maths was predictive of performance in all years, particular years one to three (p<=.05). Significant but weak correlations found the LC and it’s constituent subjects to be weak predictors of medical programme performance (r values from -0.073 to 0.277). Regression analysis found second level English, Maths and a science subject to be the strongest model to predict programme performance (r2 values from .022 to .17). Performance in the first years of the programme, including performance in the basic science curriculum, was highly indicative of later performance. CONCLUSION Our research suggests that university basic sciences are more predictive than LC sciences of success in later studies. This, alongside the reducing availability of chemistry and physics at second level, justifies the inclusion of basic sciences within medical curricula in Ireland. Advances in medical practice are increasingly based on a foundation in these subjects, with nano biology, advanced therapeutics and radiographic imaging requiring graduates intellectually agile enough to truly understand the diagnostic and therapeutic tools of the future

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INMED 2013 Book Of Abstracts.pdf

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