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September 2021

Considering the alternatives: a special study module in complementary therapy

Author(s): Wearn, A., Hunton, M., Innes, M.

Abstract: Objectives: This study sought to describe the motivation, experience and attitude change of 21 undergraduate medical students who chose a special study module in complementary therapy (CT). Design: Survey; self-administered questionnaire before and after the module. Setting: Second year medical students' course special study module in CT concentrating on homoeopathy at The University of Birmingham Medical School, UK. Results: Twenty questionnaires were completed at each time point with 19 sets of paired data. Students saw the module as offering a rare opportunity to examine and evaluate non-orthodox therapies. Eleven students had personal experience of a CT prior to the module, but there was a wide range of student attitudes from 'scepticism' to 'acceptance'. Students tended to rate the efficacy of CT as a whole, and homoeopathy in isolation, similarly (P = 0.005).This trend was less marked at the end (P = 0.077). On both occasions CT was rated higher. Individual student's ratings moved in both directions. Twelve students considered learning and practising a CT, most commonly acupuncture. Conclusions: The evolution of UK undergraduate medical curricula has begun to incorporate non-core components through special study modules. The Birmingham CT module was popular and attracted students with a range of initial attitudes. We have demonstrated that it allowed a process of discernment about the value and role of CT within the established medical system whilst maintaining heterogeneity of opinion.

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