The planning committee (administrators, faculty, and students) met and conducted a needs assessment about the kinds of information that would be of value to the families and friends of medical students, with a particular emphasis on those aspects of medical training poorly understood by lay people. The committee developed a half-day program that included slides, videotapes, panel discussions, and question and answer sessions. The program was scheduled on a Saturday to optimize participation.
One month prior to the event, the Dean's Office contacted each of the 140 newly-admitted students and informed them of the upcoming Family Day activities. The students were encouraged to invite their family members and friends. Attendance was entirely discretionary and no attempt was made to determine the reasons for non-participation. Thus, those who chose to attend were self-selected and may have differed in some fundamental way from those who did not attend.
The first program, conducted in fall 2000, included an overview of the School's new competency-based curriculum, a consideration of the stressors facing medical students, a demonstration of a clinical exam using a standardized patient, a description of the National Residency Matching Program, student and physician panel discussions about medical school and career selection, and a presentation on financial aid. Each of these sessions lasted 15–45 min. Fourth-year students provided campus tours.
The second program was conducted in fall 2001. Based on feedback from the previous year, the number of topics was reduced to allow more thorough coverage of the curriculum, the competencies, and the residency match. Financial aid and career specialty information was provided in handout format. The survey instrument was modified accordingly.
Pre- and post-program surveys that assessed knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes about medical school were administered to the participants of the 2000 and 2001 programs (Additional file: 1
). Question topics included the nature and structure of medical school, the psychosocial stressors most often experienced by medical students, residency procurement and length of graduate training, indebtedness and earnings potential, and other relevant information. Pre- and post-program responses were compared with the unpaired t-test. Differences were considered statistically significant if p < 0.05.