Background: The literature indicates that medical students require more comprehensive HIV training.
Aim: Medical students at the University of Toronto developed and implemented the preclerkship HIV elective (PHE) with the aim to increase trainee HIV knowledge, address important issues in HIV care, and prepare students to serve affected populations.
Methods: Developed in partnership with the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and in consultation with local AIDS service organizations and the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, the PHE was inaugurated in November 2008 as an elective supplement to medical curriculum content. Eighteen second-year medical students participated in the PHE, consisting of lectures, small group sessions, clinical observerships, community placements, reading assignments, and an HIV counseling and testing workshop. Participants completed a self-assessment of HIV knowledge prior to starting and after PHE completion.
Results: Self-assessment scores of HIV knowledge among PHE participants significantly increased from 78.1% (pre-PHE) to 90.2% (post-PHE) (p = 0.0016). Common themes from feedback on participant satisfaction included enthusiasm for small group sessions, clinical observerships, community agency placements, and the diversity of topics covered.
Conclusions: Student-run initiatives can supplement medical curriculum content and program feedback may be used to advocate for curriculum changes. Factors influencing success include student leadership and interest, community partnerships, and faculty mentorship.