Medical Professionalism: the Effects of Sociodemographic Diversity and Curricular Organization on the Attitudinal Performance of Medical Students

<div><p>ABSTRACT Introduction: Socioeconomic and demographic diversity in the educational environment and the development of professional attitudes enhance the quality of health care delivery. Despite the importance of diversity for equity and accessibility to health care, its repercussions for students’ attitudinal learning have not been adequately evaluated. Purpose: Evaluate the influence of academic sociodemographic diversity and curricular organization in the development of professional attitudes in different phases of the undergraduate medical curriculum. Method: In 2012, the attitudinal performance of 310 socioeconomically diverse medical students was evaluated by the administration of a five-point professional attitudes scale. The participants were at different points in their education at a Brazilian public school of medicine in Brasília, Federal District. The scale comprised 6 factors: communication, ethics, professional excellence, self-assessment, beliefs, social determinants; and a general factor called medical professionalism and was validated for the purpose of this research. The reliability coefficients (aCronbach) ranged from 0.65 to 0.87, according to different scale dimensions. Student diversity was analyzed according to differences in gender, age, religious affiliation, system of student selection and socioeconomic background. Results: The authors observed a decline in the mean attitude scores during the clinical phase compared to the preclinical phase of the curriculum. Female students displayed more positive attitudes than male students, and the students who declared a religious affiliation recorded higher attitude scores compared to those who declared themselves atheist, agnostic or non-religious. There was no correlation between family income or the system of student selection and the students’ attitude scores. The students who had attended public schools expressed a greater interest in working in the public health system compared to the other students. Age and marital status had no relevant effect on attitude scores. Conclusions: The attitude scores of medical students declined as the curriculum progressed. Female students had more positive attitudes than male students. Religious affiliation appeared to positively influence the observed attitude scores.</p></div>