Objectives: The aim of the present study was to investigate second-year medical students’ understanding of quality of life associated with childhood inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Methods: A cross-sectional study in a major teaching institution in San Francisco was carried out. A questionnaire was administered following an hour-long gastroenterology lecture, which featured 2 young patients with pediatric-onset IBD who addressed everyday life with the disease. Analyses of numerate responses to the questionnaire were paired with a content and thematic analysis of audiotape recordings of the patients’ commentaries.
Results: Medical students’ responses to the patient interviews were extremely positive. Medical students gained a new awareness of the psychosocial complexities associated with living with a pediatric chronic illness and a new way of thinking about the meaning of “healthy.” Despite listening to 2 healthy young patients, however, the medical students still conceptualized pediatric IBD in mostly, although not exclusively, negative terms.
Conclusions: Medical students’ perceptions of pediatric IBD improved as a result of listening to the patient interviews. Although this teaching modality effectively introduced students to a complex condition, it did not overcome their unfavorable impression of the effect of IBD on children's lives. The symptoms associated with IBD have stigma attached to them, and these stereotypes influence how medical students perceive those living with this chronic illness. More research and training in this area is necessary.