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Medical students' attitudes towards and perception of the basic sciences: a comparison between students in the old and the new curriculum at the University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands


Eugène Custers, UMC, School of Medical Sciences, Stratenum, Room 0.303, P. O. Box 85060, 3508 AB Utrecht, The Netherland. Tel.: 00 31 30 253 2996; Fax: 00 31 30 253 8200; E-mail:


Objectives  The attitudes towards the basic sciences of medical students enrolled in either of 2 different curricula at the University of Utrecht Medical School in The Netherlands were investigated. The purpose of this study was threefold: first, to compare students (beginning clerks) in a conventional and an innovative curriculum; second, to compare beginning clerks with advanced clerks; and third to compare the present results with those of 2 previous American and Canadian studies in which the same questionnaire was used.

Setting  Beginning clerks in the old and in the innovative curriculum, and advanced clerks in the old curriculum, rated 9 statements on a 5-point (disagree – agree) Likert scale. The statements assessed students' attitudes toward the basic sciences.

Results  The results showed that beginning clerks in our innovative curriculum, unlike those in a conventional curriculum, consider the basic sciences as somewhat less important for medical practice and do not think that as many biomedical facts as possible should be learned before entering clinical practice. On the other hand, students in the innovative curriculum are more excited by the faculty's teaching of the basic sciences. This latter result confirms the findings in a previous Canadian study. No significant differences were found between beginning and advanced clerks in the conventional curriculum.

Conclusion  Students experience teaching of the basic sciences as more exciting when they are integrated in organ system blocks with clinical bearings, though they are somewhat less positive about the actual importance of these sciences.