Purpose: To evaluate the long-term effects of an innovative curriculum, the New Pathway (NP) Program, on behaviors and attitudes related to humanistic medicine, lifelong learning, and social learning.
Method: Long-term follow-up of Harvard Medical School students who participated in a randomized controlled trial. Descriptive study using 1998 telephone interviews of 100 1989 and 1990 graduates (50 who had studied the NP curriculum, 50 who had studied the traditional curriculum). The NP Program consisted of problem-based learning tutorials, with coordinated lectures, labs, experiences in humanistic medicine, and clinical experiences; the traditional program consisted of basic science lectures and labs.
Results: Of 22 measures on the survey, NP and traditional students differed significantly on only five (three humanism; two social learning): 40% of NP students and 18% of traditional students went on to practice primary care or psychiatry. NP students rated their preparation to practice humanistic medicine higher than did traditional students and expressed more confidence in their ability to manage patients with psychosocial problems. NP students were more likely than were traditional students to believe that faculty from the first two years continued to influence their thinking. NP students liked the pedagogic approaches of their program more than traditional students did. There was no difference between the groups on measures of lifelong learning.
Conclusions: Differences between NP and traditional students in the humanism domain first appeared during medical school and residency and remained significant well into practice, suggesting that humanistic medicine can be taught and learned.