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Keywords:

  • anatomy;
  • attitudes;
  • medical education;
  • personality;
  • science

Abstract

Assessment of the personalities of medical students can enable medical educators to formulate strategies for the best development of academic and clinical competencies. Previous research has shown that medical students do not share a common personality profile, there being gender differences. We have also shown that, for French medical students, students with personality traits associated with strong competitiveness are selected for admission to medical school. In this study, we further show that the medical students have different personality profiles compared with other student groups (psychology and business studies). The main purpose of the present investigation was to assess attitudes to science and gross anatomy, and to relate these to the students' personalities. Questionnaires (including Thurstone and Chave analyses) were employed to measure attitudes, and personality was assessed using the Big Five Inventory (BFI). Data for attitudes were obtained for students at medical schools in Cardiff (UK), Paris, Descartes/Sorbonne (France), St George's University (Grenada) and Ankara (Turkey). Data obtained from personality tests were available for analysis from the Parisian cohort of students. Although the medical students were found to have strongly supportive views concerning the importance of science in medicine, their knowledge of the scientific method/philosophy of science was poor. Following analyses of the BFI in the French students, ‘openness’ and ‘conscientiousness’ were linked statistically with a positive attitude towards science. For anatomy, again strongly supportive views concerning the subject's importance in medicine were discerned. Analyses of the BFI in the French students did not show links statistically between personality profiles and attitudes towards gross anatomy, except male students with ‘negative affectivity’ showed less appreciation of the importance of anatomy. This contrasts with our earlier studies that showed that there is a relationship between the BF dimensions of personality traits and anxiety towards the dissection room experience (at the start of the course, ‘negative emotionality’ was related to an increased level of anxiety). We conclude that medical students agree on the importance to their studies of both science in general and gross anatomy in particular, and that some personality traits relate to their attitudes that could affect clinical competence.