Early Exposure of Medical Students to Dermatology Found to Increase Likelihood of Pursuing Field

New research into students’ understanding of the dermatology field suggests greater knowledge and exposure may instill greater appreciation for it among medical students.

Rewan Abdelwahab, BA

In a recent literature review, early exposure to the dermatology field for American undergraduate premedical students was found to lead to interest in pursuing the field.

The study’s investigators cited a lack of available literature on the perceptions of medical students regarding the dermatology field.

They acknowledged that without adequate exposure to the field early on, students may be deterred.

The research was led by Rewan Abdelwahab, BA, from the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.

“Medical students are not adequately exposed to dermatology during medical school leading to misconceptions about the field,” Abdelwahab and colleagues wrote. “This may deter otherwise qualified applicants and potentially decrease the diversity of the applicant pool applying to a dermatology residency. Increased exposure…may ultimately influence their decision on pursuing it as a speciality.”

Background

The study’s investigators conducted their literature review through the use of several databases such as Pubmed, Web of Science, Scopus, Embase, and ScienceDirect, seeking out English articles and abstracts written from 2016 to 2021.

The 8 articles that ended up being explored had to do with medical students’ beliefs and perceptions regarding dermatology, with a focus on such elements as socioeconomics, skin color, diversity, and dermatologic condition experiences.

Three of the investigators reviewed the articles independently to determine the meeting of inclusion criteria, including the following information:

  • The study was extracted from one of the aforementioned databases
  • Those included were students interested in dermatology
  • The study assessed a minimum of 1 of these variables: interest or attitudes on the field or other specialities, procedures, dermatologic topic understanding, and/or practice scope
  • The study had was made in English
  • The research was contained in a peer-reviewed journal
  • The aforementioned publication dates

They excluded studies which were either duplicates, studies not meeting the above inclusion criteria, or abstracts from conferences.

Findings

The study found 8 accessible articles in total for the literature review, and their findings indicated that many non-US students viewed the field as being monotonous, stigmatized, unfamiliar, and difficult to access.

The results indicated that these medical students misunderstood both the wide variety and severity of the different types of conditions treated in the dermatology field.

The research team found that those who found the field appealing to pursue career planning in the field often had to do with portrayal in the media and on dermatologists' influence on the experiences of patients.

They cited that decisions were often based on perceptions, and that students might reject specific specialties following negative comments.

Most notably, the review’s data indicated that dermatology-related activities led to higher interest and understanding of dermatology, and that early exposure by undergraduate premedical students often led to more more confidence in finding mentors in the field, more interest in it, and a greater perception that the field helps address underserved communities’ needs.

“To promote an equitable match and to bolster ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion recruitment and retention initiatives in the field, further investigation is needed to understand what misconceptions or perceptions may be preventing students from enrolling in dermatology pipeline programs,” they wrote. “Understanding this knowledge can bolster recruitment of a more diverse pool of students into dermatology programs, improve public perception of the field, and grow funding for dermatology health initiatives.”

The study, “Scoping review of medical students' perceptions of the field of dermatology,” was published online by Skin and Health Disease.

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