Background: The three-year pre-medical programme ‘Becoming a Physician’ focuses on different aspects of medical professionalism. Objectives are to increase awareness and sensitivity to disadvantaged populations, and practise sensitive effective communication skills. Methods: The curriculum includes: (1) Visits to treatment centres for people with special needs, mental illnesses, substance abuse issues, physically or sexually abused, and prisoners. Students tour the facility, hold discussions with residents, and discuss ethical professional interrelations to the medical world. Students then write ‘reflective diaries’ summarizing their thoughts and emotions. (2) Participation in a communication course that focuses on learning by practising patient-oriented communication. Qualitative data were collected from three sources: reflective diaries, studentsʼ course evaluations, and interviews with the studentsʼ tutors. Results: Data indicated that the students were very satisfied with the programme. They indicated an increase in awareness of the special needs of diverse populations, and in the sense of efficacy for conducting interviews tailored to patients' needs. Tutors reported a sense of ‘personal growth’ following their role as mentors. Reflections: Interactions of medical students with diverse populations, when accompanied by appropriate feedback mechanisms and strengthening of communication skills, can improve awareness and sensitivity to patients' special needs. This could help students become more sensitive and thoughtful physicians.
- Medical students