Medical School Clinical Trials Educational Intervention: Impact on Knowledge and Attitudes

J Cancer Educ. 2023 Oct;38(5):1479-1485. doi: 10.1007/s13187-023-02287-8. Epub 2023 May 11.


Medical student knowledge and opinions of clinical research have important ramifications for how likely they will be to refer patients into clinical trials as practicing physicians. This study examined students understanding, knowledge, and attitudes about clinical trials at the start of medical school and after completion of a multi-faceted intervention designed to increase medical students' confidence in understanding and explaining clinical trials during the pre-clinical and clinical years. Medical students were surveyed about their knowledge of and attitudes toward clinical trials in their first (N = 724) and third (N = 191) years of medical school. During the intervening years, students attend a lecture delivered by University of Hawai 'i Cancer Center faculty, were provided a resource manual from National Cancer Institute, participated in two problem-based learning clinical scenarios, and completed an optional practicum. After completing the comprehensive clinical trials education, there were significant increases in student understanding and knowledge and a decrease in student perception that clinical trials exploit participants. Most students agreed or strongly agreed that inclusion of clinical trials in the curriculum was important and would influence their future practice. Integration of clinical trials education into the medical school curriculum improved students' understanding of clinical research, their ability to communicate the clinical trials process, and confidence in conducting, referring to, and locating clinical trials. Medical students appreciate the importance of clinical trials in advancing medicine and medical education. Further integration of clinical trials education and opportunities to engage in research during medical school are warranted to address students' uncertainty about the benefits of participation for patients.

Keywords: Attitudes; Clinical trials education; Knowledge; Medical education; Medical school curriculum; Medical students.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Humans
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Schools, Medical
  • Students, Medical*