Research Articles

Knowledge of final-year medical students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal about family medicine, and long-term career choices

R. Omed Ali, A. J. Ross, T. C. Nkabinde
South African Family Practice | Vol 61, No 1 : January/February| a5054 | DOI: | © 2019 R. Omed Ali, A. J. Ross, T. C. Nkabinde | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 November 2019 | Published: 08 March 2019

About the author(s)

R. Omed Ali, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
A. J. Ross, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
T. C. Nkabinde, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

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Background: While international experience suggests that well-trained primary care physicians improve the quality and cost effectiveness of health care, family medicine (FM) as the discipline of the specialist primary care physician appears to not be an attractive career for medical graduates in South Africa (SA). The aim of this study was to establish final-year medical students’ knowledge about FM and its relevance to the healthcare system, explore their perceptions of the discipline’s relevance, and identify their specialty preference.
Methods: This was a descriptive study conducted amongst final-year medical students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in 2017 at the conclusion of their seven-week FM module. Data were collected using a self-administered questionnaire and results were analysed descriptively.
Results: The response rate of completed questionnaires was 80.2% (157/196). Students reported limited exposure to FM in their early undergraduate years and low levels of awareness about essential public health programmes. Students showed good awareness of the six roles of family physicians (FPs), but FM was only the sixth most popular choice for specialisation.
Conclusions: In general, students had favourable views concerning FM and its role in the future of healthcare delivery in SA, although their knowledge of essential health programmes was poor. The majority of students had limited interest in pursuing a career in FM. A key recommendation to address these issues is to introduce FM into the curriculum earlier, to cover the key roles of the FP, and provide teaching that highlights the relevance of FM to health system programmes.


family medicine; final-year students; medical student career choices; perceptions of family medicine; specialty choices; undergraduate family medicine


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