Students at a crossroad: A cross-sectional survey gauging the impact of COVID-19 on medical and biomedical graduates in the United States and Sweden

Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2023 Sep-Oct;51(5):508-519. doi: 10.1002/bmb.21761. Epub 2023 Jun 24.


Graduate programs in medicine and biomedical sciences have been severely impacted by the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic over the last 2 years. Following 2 years since beginning of the pandemic, data on student support, educational and academic performance as well as sentiment on changes to educational programs are starting to emerge. We performed and compared results of two cross-sectional surveys of Swedish and U.S.-based medical and biomedical graduate students on how the pandemic has affected their studies, research productivity and career trajectory. Students were also asked to assess support provided by the university and supervisors. The surveys also captured student demographics and a range of other factors, such as pressures brought on by caretaking and financial responsibilities. We analyzed answers from 264 and 106 students attending graduate programs in universities in Sweden and the United States, respectively. U.S.-based students faced more severe restrictions on their research program compared to students in Sweden, reporting more delays in productivity, scientific output and graduation, and increased worries about their career trajectory. Swedish students had more caretaking responsibilities, although these did not cause any delays in graduation. While support by universities and supervisors was comparable between the countries, financial worries and mental health concerns were particularly prominent in the U.S. cohort. Student performance and outlook was hugely dependent on the breadth of the restrictions and the available support. Besides the governmental and university-led approach to counter the pandemic, societal differences also played a role in how well students were handling effects of the pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; PhD; biomedical education; graduate program; survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Students
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology