An interactive contouring module improves engagement and interest in radiation oncology among preclinical medical students: Results of a randomized trial

Pract Radiat Oncol. Jul-Aug 2018;8(4):e190-e198. doi: 10.1016/j.prro.2018.01.001. Epub 2018 Jan 12.


Purpose: Studies have shown significant gaps in knowledge of radiation therapy among medical students and primary care providers. The goal of this study was to evaluate the effect of an interactive contouring module on knowledge and interest in radiation oncology among preclinical medical students.

Methods and materials: Second-year medical students at the University of California, San Diego were randomized to participate in an interactive contouring exercise or watch a traditional didactic lecture on radiation oncology. Participants completed knowledge tests and surveys at baseline, immediately following the exercise, and 3 months later. Statistical analysis included Wilcoxon signed-rank test for pre- and posttest comparisons and Wilcoxon rank sum test for comparison between groups.

Results: Forty-three medical students participated in the trial (21 in the didactic group; 22 in the contouring group). Students completing the contouring module demonstrated similar overall knowledge improvement compared with the traditional didactic group (+8.6% vs +6.6%, not significant) but endorsed greater engagement on a 5-point Likert-type scale (3.10 vs 3.76, P = .02). At 3-month follow-up, there was a nonsignificant trend toward improved overall knowledge in the contouring group (43% vs 51%, P = .10), with a significance difference in a subset of questions on knowledge of the process of radiation therapy as well as side effects (51% vs 75%, P = .002). Students in the contouring group demonstrated more interest in pursuing a clinical radiation oncology rotation (2.52 vs 3.27, P = .01).

Conclusions: Use of an interactive contouring module was an effective method to teach preclinical medical students about radiation oncology, with no significant difference in knowledge gained compared with a traditional didactic lecture; however, higher engagement among students completing the contouring module led to improved retention of knowledge of radiation side effects and greater interest in radiation oncology. These data suggest a potential benefit of integrating an interactive radiation oncology module into the preclinical medical school curriculum.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Curriculum*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Radiation Oncology / education*
  • Radiography / methods
  • Random Allocation
  • Sex Factors
  • Students, Medical