Introduction: Research shows that physicians who model prevention are more likely to encourage preventive behaviors in their patients. Therefore, understanding the health of medical students ought to provide insight into the development of health promotion programs that influence the way these future physicians practice medicine. A university-based General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) provides a venue well suited to the health assessment and education of medical students. This research explores the utility of a GCRC in a program measuring the prevalence of clinical risk factors and related health behaviors in first-year medical students.
Methods: A 6-year cross-sectional study of first-year medical students measured clinical and behavioral variables associated with metabolic syndrome. Statistical testing was used to determine the prevalence of risk factors and the influence of gender in these variables.
Results: This group of medical students displayed better health indicators than did the general young adult population; however a small proportion of medical students exhibited early risk factors for chronic disease. There were significant gender differences in mean values for clinical risk factors, with males displaying higher cardiovascular risk overall. Males and females demonstrated significant differences in dietary intake and exercise programs.
Discussion: A GCRC can be used to provide a health assessment of medical students. Moreover, some students may benefit from health promotion programs incorporated into medical school curricula. This study provides a foundation for further research on the health of future physicians and the development of health promotion programs for this population. It also begins to explore the use of a GCRC as a teaching resource for medical students.